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On this page:
Agatha Christie’s Torbay
Ashdown Park Hotel
Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay
Bel and the Dragon
Best of England Vineyard Tours
Brockencote Hall for lunch
Brooklands Hotel Surrey
Careys Manor Hotel
Champagne Taittinger at Luton Hoo
Cream Tea Cruise from MBNA Thames Clippers
Eckington Manor Cookery School and B & B
The Elms Hotel Worcestershire
The English Riviera
The Fleece Inn for lunch
Fusion Brasserie Worcestershire for dinner
Ivy Roost Cottage
London Southend Airport
The Montagu Arms
Strawberry Hill House
Hotel TerraVina for Bed and Breakfast
Hotel TerraVina Dining
The Three Faces of Richard
Theatre: Memphis in London
Warren House – Kingston
Best of England Vineyard Tours
Many of us have become interested in wine. Yes, drinking it
and pairing it. Remember the days when we in the UK drank just a few
different wines? It wasn’t that they were so good that they became popular; truth
to tell, it was all we had. Red or white from ‘various countries’. They
were not different bottles from various countries but often bottles made with a
blend of grapes from various countries. Rosé came in the guise of Mateus
Rosé in its distinctive flat bottle. OK, I admit it, I still have a taste for that
retro classic; I guess it’s familiarity.
Things have changed. We are more discerning and we are
interested in not only what’s in the glass but where it came from. If
it’s delicious then we want to learn more, and one might discover that the
crisp sparkling white in our glass actually comes from England! It’s documented that
Christopher Merret used the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second
fermentation, 40 years before it was claimed that Benedictine monk Dom
Pérignon had invented the process which came to be called the Champagne method.
Best of England is a young and vibrant company which
publishes English county guides, and now they have tours to offer
visitors from the UK and across the globe. The company has quality at the heart of
both books and tours. They research so you don’t have to, and they offer
well-tailored trips to delight the novice wine buff as well as those with a more
professional wine interest.
An English vineyard tour with Best of England is a tasting
delight. One can opt for a short tour with afternoon tea, which might
sound like something of an oxymoron but what better backdrop for a classic
afternoon tea could there be than a lush vineyard …and a glass or two of
something chilled, sparkling and reviving!
For those who are looking for an intense 3-vineyard
experience then Best of England has a tour to satisfy that want. One
will see how these wines are made, from growing vines to corking and labelling
the final product. Visitors will meet the winemakers and hear their individual
stories, and there will be an opportunity (of course) to sample the wines.
Bolney have been making wine since 1972. Their wines are
well-regarded and can be enjoyed in this family-run winery. The estate
is 39 acres and has a café offering gourmet lunches, as well as
Ridgeview is another family-run vineyard, outside the
picturesque village of Ditchling. It has outstanding views over the
dramatic South Downs Ridge. They produce award-winning sparkling wines using
Rathfinny Wine Estate is found in the Cuckmere Valley and
three miles from the sea. The vineyard is 600 acres and over the past
three years they have planted 72 hectares of vines; by 2020, they will be one
of England’s largest vineyards. All the buildings here have been
constructed with locally sourced materials, using sustainable technologies such as
photovoltaic cells and wastewater recycling. Rathfinny Estate have worked with the
National Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority to open the
‘Rathfinny Trail’ so that visitors can arrive by foot or by bike.
All of these established and thriving wineries show different
philosophies of production and growing, giving an impression of the
progress made in English viticulture over the past decade.
Best of England make wine education fun and accessible,
whether you are novice or professional. They arrange everything for a
stress-free day of tasting in the most delicious fashion. Just turn up
at the railway station and leave the arrangements to this imaginative company.
Learn more about Best of England here.
Taittinger at Luton Hoo
Champagne is the quintessential celebration drink. We enjoy it with friends and
loved ones, accompanied by fine
foods, perhaps in a drawing room with high ceilings, Grinling Gibbons
wood carvings and sumptuous drapes. Well, OK, most of us can’t manage
that stunning setting …but Luton Hoo can!
Luton Hoo is an English Country House Hotel with acres of grounds and
piles of history. Yes, there are many country house hotels – the UK is
blessed with these magnificent properties which are now enjoying a new
life as classy accommodations for discerning guests. Luton Hoo is
arguably one of the finest examples of its genre.
A stay laced with dinner and champagne was likely to be memorable, and
indeed it was. Luton Hoo offers several wine dinners every year and
they are understandably popular with regular visitors, those who are
celebrating, and others who are interested in learning more about the
best of wines.
is a French wine company which is still family-owned and run. They are
recognised as producers of outstanding Champagnes. The company is led
by Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger. The estate was founded in 1734 by
Jacques Fourneaux. The Taittingers were a family of wine merchants who,
in 1870, moved to the Paris region from the Lorraine in order to retain
their French citizenship after the Franco-Prussian War and the Treaty
of Frankfurt. In 1932 Pierre Taittinger bought the Château de la
Marquetterie from the wine house of Forest-Fourneaux.
From 1945 to 1960 the business was run by Pierre's third son
Under his direction the Taittinger cellars were established in the
Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, built in the thirteenth century. After
François' death his brother Claude took over and directed the
from 1960 to 2005. It was during this time that Taittinger became known
around the world.
The vineyards of the château had been planted with Chardonnay and
Noir since the 18th Century. They are the grapes which are most
commonly used in Champagne production. To be called Champagne a wine
must be made from grapes grown in that region and must be made using
the classic Champagne method. Wines made with this method but from
grapes grown elsewhere are just sparkling wines.
Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne Non-Vintage was served with our pre-dinner
canapes. This was poured from Magnum bottles, offering a subtly
different experience from that to be had from the same wine from a
regular bottle. This was a light Champagne, pale in colour with fine
bubbles and made with both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Plenty of
green apples on the nose, fruit and honey on the palate and a
well-chosen pairing with the oyster and sweet potato nibbles. A
Champagne to drink with delicately flavoured food.
Taittinger Prelude, a non-vintage blend of grapes from Grand Cru sites,
is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and accompanied our starter of
pan-fried scallops with a garnish of hazelnuts, clementine gel and
orange crisp. The Champagne presented full aromatics with fresh citrus
notes mirroring the dish, and had a pleasantly long finish.
Our main course of Guinea fowl boudin with chestnut and
date stuffing, cèpe cream and winter truffles was paired with
both Taittinger Vintage 2008 and the 2003. It was a rare opportunity to
taste and compare two vintage Champagnes. Most Champagnes are not vintage, allowing the producers to present
consistent quality in their styles of wine. When a year is particularly
good a vineyard may elect to make a special vintage Champagne. Both
wines were distinctive but the majority of the table agreed that the
2003 had a more robust persona and was the best balance for the meat. I
would suggest that perhaps the 2008 would have been the more popular
had the sauce not contained truffle, which was a dominant flavour.
Taittinger Nocturne Sec Non-Vintage paired very well
with our dessert of striking autumn berry pudding with buttermilk foam
and brioche crisp. This wine is made with a higher 'dosage' (added
sugar), making it noticeably sweeter. It has a pale yellow colour and
delicate bubbles. It’s soft and fresh and made a delicious pairing with
the fruity dessert.
The evening was not just a pairing dinner but something
of a masterclass, with able and amusing Kevin McKee. He was ideally
placed to deliciously educate the guests, being Director of Taittinger
But the food was never overshadowed by the expressive wines. Each dish was
a triumph of taste and form. The Wernher Restaurant Sous Chef, Aimee
Reddick, is definitely a chef in ascendance. Aimee first joined the
team in October 2013 as a Junior Sous Chef and now has a more senior
role, heading a team of five Junior Chefs. This was a fine-dining meal
of both quality and innovation. I had not visited The Wernher, Luton
Hoo’s main restaurant, but if this is an indication of the quality of
food then it must surely be considered a destination restaurant with an
outstanding chef. I look forward to tasting the regular restaurant menu
in the future.
Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa
The Mansion House
Bedfordshire LU1 3TQ
Phone: +44 (0)1582 734437
Learn more about Luton Hoo events here
Tea Cruise from MBNA Thames Clippers
I am a Londoner and I am ashamed to say that I rarely take
advantage of visiting our iconic and internationally-appreciated
historic and cultural sites, unless I just happen to be passing. The Thames is our
ancient thoroughfare, but now work vessels are mostly a thing of distant memory
– that watery road is these days the domain prominently of pleasure craft.
There are commuter services, but for the most part the river
is a playground for visitors. It’s a shame that more of us Londoners don’t take
a look at our city from the vantage point of the river. The Thames is steeped
in history, legends and stories and it’s all spread along the banks of
this famous river.
MBNA Thames Clippers offers services into central London
from 20 piers across the capital. They start from Woolwich in the east and
continue to Putney in leafy west London. They have convenient schedules with departures
every 20 minutes. The MBNA Thames Clippers’ River Roamer ticket is particularly
popular with tourists, who can take advantage of unlimited hop-on/hop-off service
to and from more than a dozen piers.
These new and stylish boats now offer their passengers a
unique service: a daily traditional cream tea. It’s a couple of fresh-baked
scones, a pot of jam and even the indispensable clotted cream. There is a cup
of tea which will be replenished as often as you like, and there is even coffee,
although that wouldn’t be at all traditional. For those in a celebratory mood
one can upgrade with a glass of Champagne. Sit and sip and watch London drift by.
This floating tea is sight-seeing in comfort. One gets to view London from another
perspective and from a warm and cosy sitting position. The trip takes an hour and
travels past the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London and The London Eye. There is
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern and the dome of St. Pauls, and you will
cruise under some of London’s most celebrated bridges such as Tower Bridge and
London Bridge. A blue-badge guide will provide a commentary during the sailing whilst
pointing out interesting landmarks. Even locals will likely learn something new
and fascinating about the river and those who have lived, worked and died
along its length.
Any keen photographer will love the opportunity to take
pictures of different aspects of famous buildings without the heads of fellow
travellers getting into shot. You are at the same level as other river traffic
and looking up at buildings and bridges, so one can truly appreciate the architecture.
The Cream Tea Cruise departs from London Bridge Pier at
15:30 and lasts for one hour. Prices start from £16.90 for the cream tea and
sightseeing cruise. Champagne upgrade is extra.
For further information and to book, please visit here
Warren House – Kingston
We might be in London for a short holiday. We see the sights,
monuments, museums. We shop till we drop and we are
swept along by throngs of others looking for the same delights of
retail therapy. But there is another vision of England. It’s that
‘green and pleasant land’ of manicured gardens, country houses and
calm. There is just such an idyll and it’s only a short distance from
A magnificent Victorian country house provides a step back in time to a
gentler era where the sound of croquet balls being hit might likely be
the only noise to remind one that there are other people about. Warren
House has history, gentility and charm. Its fabric is original but
there are modern amenities to pacify even the addicted iPhoner or
Warren House is set in landscaped gardens, with facilities for both
commerce and leisure. But this area has been documented for hundreds of
years. Since the Middle Ages the neighbourhood has been on the route
from London to Portsmouth. Kingston Hill was well established
even before Charles I enclosed Richmond Park in 1637. Small estates
were established during the late 18th and early 19th Century, and in
1837 His Royal Highness Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of
George III, acquired the seat of the late Earl of Liverpool at Coombe.
The improved road to London brought the City within an hour’s carriage
ride, and the area began to attract the wealthy.
The original Warren House was built in 1860 for Hugh Hammersley on 16
acres of land leased from the Duke of Cambridge. Hammersley was a
partner in the successful London firm Cox and Co, bankers to the
British Army and they must have done very good business. The estate
remained his country retreat until his death in 1882, when it was
bequeathed to his wife Dulcibella, an ancestor of Sir Anthony Eden, a
future Prime Minister.
George Grenfell Glynn, the second Baron Wolverton, purchased the house
and land in 1884 and made additions to both. His wife, Lady Georgiana
Wolverton, was great friends with Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck,
mother of the future Queen Mary, who lived at White Lodge in Richmond
Park. Lady Georgiana continued to live at Warren House until her death
American heiress Lady Mary ‘Minnie’ Paget bought the
freehold of the property in 1907 and regularly entertained the rich and
the powerful at Warren House. Many of the noteworthy features of the
House - the Ballroom, the Persian fireplace, the Italian-style Loggia
and the Winter Garden and its Grotto - were added by the Pagets. Warren
House passed to her daughter, Dame Leila Paget. She was the first
British Dame, honoured for her work with the Red Cross in Serbia during
First World War. She continued this charitable work during the Second
World War when she converted Warren House into a military convalescent
The industrial giant ICI used Warren House as a Conference and Training
Centre until 2000. Since 2005 Warren House has been in private family
ownership, and continues as a fine conference and events facility, but
it’s also an intimate hotel and just perfect for a short break. The
hotel has 46 well-appointed bedrooms, a lounge, a bar, four inside
dining spaces, a fully-equipped cardiovascular gym, a sauna and a
heated indoor swimming pool. Outside is a garden chess set as well as
the aforementioned croquet lawn.
The hotel still sports many original features including a
magnificent carved wooden staircase. One still has the sense of staying
in a private stately home. The rooms have classic décor which
works perfectly with the architecture. Bath/shower rooms are modern and
the toiletries are covetable. Warren House is grand but comfortably
accessible and timeless.
After a tough day sitting in the shade of a tree, playing garden games
or reading a book, one will likely be starving and longing for dinner.
The Persian Dining Room is stunningly beautiful with exotic Eastern
mouldings and a striking fireplace that would be considered a
centrepiece were it not for the fact that it’s in a corner.
The menu is interesting, well-balanced and tempting. My starter was a
smoked haddock scotch egg. In fact there were 2 miniature scotch eggs,
each containing a quail’s egg surrounded by delicately flavoured smoked
fish. My guest’s starter was an equally light and innovative bowl of
grilled courgettes, peas, ricotta mousse and Gremolata sauce. Both
these dishes were flavoursome and very different. The chef was already
showing his credentials.
My companion’s main course sounded interesting and hearty. This was a
substantial serving of confit duck leg with duck liver and pomegranate,
served with spiced aubergine. The leg was cooked to perfection but
those livers were
like butter. I am not normally a lover of anything offally but these
were savoury yet not overpowering in any way. This dish is a must-try
for any meat-lover when they visit Warren House.
But vegetarians are not forgotten and I was intrigued by a cauliflower
steak, cauliflower beignet and crispy couscous. This was a unique
vegetable dish that turned the humble cauli into a triumph of design
and flavour. The slice of vegetable had organic architectural elegance
and the grilling gave additional flavour; the battered vegetables were
moreish and airy. Yes, only a plate of veggies but it was satisfying
My guest has ever been a man ready to sacrifice himself on the altar of
dessert, so he ordered the banana mousse and glazed bananas. The
presentation was attractive with short columns of banana topped with
crunchy caramel, flanking the mousse which had concentrated flavour –
once again the chef showing that simple ingredients can be elevated
into something noble.
We spent just one night at the Warren House hotel but that has acted as
an encouragement to return. The grounds are lush and leafy, the
fountains romantic, the rooms are havens for the weary, and the food is
Take a little time away from the capital on your next trip
to London. Kingston has great public transport connections, and if it’s
an hour away by horse-drawn carriage then you can bet it’s quicker by
train (from Waterloo) or car. There is even a river boat for those who
want extra adventure and have the lightest of luggage. Warren House is
a world away from the usual London hotel chains, and won’t disappoint.
Surrey KT2 7HY
Phone: +44 (0)20 8547 1777
Fax: +44 (0)20 8547 1175
Visit Warren House here
Bel, the Dragon and the Village
Sounds like the title of an improbable fable or fairy tale but here it all is and not far from London. Yes, there is more to Britain than just the tourist attractions of our Capital. It would be a shame to come here and just visit those well-publicised spots.
Churt is an old village even by Old World standards and here it sits in the western part of the county of Surrey. A narrow band of fertile soil in this area has enabled people to live here since prehistoric times. Within a small area archaeologists have discovered a mammoth tusk and bones, flint tools from the Neolithic period, burial mounds from the Bronze Age, and Roman settlements.
The village name can be found on documents as far back as 688 when King Cadwaella of Wessex gave some land in Churt to the church to celebrate his conversion to Christianity. As a result successive Bishops of Winchester became Churt’s Lords of the Manor and that state lasted for more than 1,000 years. The village was one of the 13 tithings or sections of the Bishop’s Great Manor of Farnham. Near the parish church, which was built in the 1860s, is the old forge built in about 1600. A barn nearby was built in the 16th century in wooden Tudor style on a brick plinth.
Its convenient proximity to London has made this the home of many a TV presenter and sports personality. Writer Jane Austen lived just over the border in Hampshire. David Lloyd George was Britain’s Prime Minister during part of the First World War (1914-18); when he retired from Parliament he had a house built in Churt and called it Bron y De, which is Welsh for ‘south hill’.
The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a large natural amphitheatre not far from Churt and it’s a place surrounded by colourful legends. The name Devil’s Punch Bowl is first referred to in 1768 in John Rocque’s map. Before that it was known as “ye Bottom”. The soil in this part of Surrey has two layers - an upper layer of sandstone, with clay underneath that. This deep depression of the Bowl is believed to be the result of erosion caused by spring water beneath the sandstone causing the upper level to collapse, creating the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
Local legend has it that during the Middle Ages the Devil became so enraged by construction of churches in the neighbouring county of Sussex that he decided to dig a ditch from the English Channel, through the South Downs, in order to flood the area. He got as far as the village of Poynings, an area known as the Devil’s Dyke, when he was disturbed by a cock crowing. Assuming that dawn was about to break, he leapt across to Surrey, and where he landed became the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
But travellers will want to actually stay in Churt and have a handy home-from-home as a base from which to explore and in which to relax, eat and sleep. That’s where we encounter yet another legend. It’s about Bel and the Dragon and that tale gives its name to one of the most delightful hotels I have ever visited. But what of that story? It’s a combination of tales from the Bible and mythology, involving Daniel, the priests of a pagan god, and a dragon - because all the best stories have dragons!
Bel and The Dragon at Churt is a beautifully restored country inn and just the sort that overseas visitors seek but seldom find. It looks a typical chocolate-box old pub from the outside but the inside is a picture of good taste, thoughtful design and cosy comfort.
Everything here reminds one of home. Well, not my home exactly, but the home of someone who has a degree in Interior Design and another one in Hospitality. One has the sense that the owner might walk in with a gun over one arm and a brace of hounds at his heels. He would warmly welcome the guest to his home and enquire if they might need anything. A glass of something reviving, perhaps? Another log for the fire? In truth it won’t be the local squire who will pamper the traveller but a team of staff members who will likely look after you so well that you won’t want to leave.
Bel and The Dragon relaxes the weary mind with its muted colours. Soft sofas beckon from every corner. Shelves groan under the weight of classic novels. Lamps shed restful light on pages describing by-gone days, and one’s batteries are recharged in delightful fashion. Is this really the 21st century? Yes, modern amenities and technology are installed but the service here is from an age when guests expected the best and got it.
If one can tear oneself away from that good book then there is the private space of one’s bedroom. Upstairs, the 14 bedrooms are each named after a Jane Austen character. Each is beautifully appointed with distressed furniture, Roberts radio, cast-iron radiators and real alarm clocks. Each is individually designed but I was impressed with mine to the point of amused laughter. The bed was huge and well-pillowed. The bathroom was of sufficient size to be considered a reasonable ballroom. The bath was classic with fittings to match and there were still more books over which to pore while relaxing in steamy tranquillity. There is plenty of wardrobe space and that closet didn’t have the usual safe attached to the wall and sufficient only for an iPhone and a pair of cufflinks. No, here it’s a gun safe - tall and narrow but one which has probably never seen a firearm in its life.
Visitors are treated as responsible adults here so there is a refreshment room with all the fixin’s for a cuppa tea or a cuppa Joe, as well as decanters of whisky from which to help oneself. Did I mention that each room is furnished with a bottle of damson vodka or sloe gin? Binge drinking isn’t expected and Bel and The Dragon seems to attract the class of guest that wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. This is accessible refinement.
Bel and The Dragon is part of a group and each one is a property of charm and character. The owners have taken a pride in their customer service and quality of hospitality. This inn offers travellers a glimpse of luxurious rustic charm, comfortable elegance and timeless warmth. It’s only 45 minutes from London and is surrounded by countryside and history. This is authentic England.
Bel and the Dragon
Phone: +44 1428 605799
Visit Bel and the Dragon Churt at belandthedragon-churt.co.uk
Twickenham Stadium –
World rugby and local icon
Twickenham Stadium, just like Wembley Stadium, is usually known by its
address rather than its function. Wembley is
mostly just ‘Wembley’ and Twickenham is ‘Twickenham’ with rarely the
word ‘stadium’ getting a mention. That’s likely due to its long history
and the popular respect for the institution. Twickenham is the largest
stadium in the world devoted just to the sport of Rugby Union and the
second-largest stadium in the UK after the aforementioned Wembley.
The stadium is surrounded by 1930s housing, a park and a Tesco. It
looms up at one from quite a distance away. It’s solid. It’s concrete.
It’s been around since 1907 in some form or other and it has become
part of local life. I know: I am a local.
There are those less fortunate who have a football stadium at the end
of their road. They will automatically be driven to offer sympathetic
cooing noises and words of support to the Twickenham resident, but it’s
really not necessary. Our match attendees are civil, funny, no doubt
very ‘cheery’ by the end of the day but they are inoffensive and safe
to be around. It seems that it truly is a game played by gentlemen for
gentlemen …well, if one applies that designation rather loosely.
The ground offers tours for enthusiastic rugby supporters but also for
the rest of us who are just curious about the
building. It’s much more than a swathe of lush green, hand-mown grass
surrounded by a good number of seats. This is also a juggernaut of
hospitality which one wouldn’t notice from the vantage point of a cosy
TV-match-watching sofa at home, and probably not even if one was
perched on a seat inside the stadium. There is another world under
There is much talk of World War One these days and 27 Rugby
International players from England lost their lives, along with
international players from other countries too. They are remembered in
a temporary exhibition at the stadium museum and in a poignant painting
that few spectators will see. It’s of the team just before the war. One
might note that some of them have grey badges. They were the young men
that didn’t return home. Take an organised tour and you will be able to
see this reminder of the futility of war.
The full-time museum offers an overview of the game of rugby from its
beginnings to latest developments. It has a pile of priceless
memorabilia including the Calcutta Cup, which is a finely-worked
masterpiece made in India out of melted-down rupees. And there is a
corner where young wanabes can try their athletic skills against
machines that will test their strength, speed and agility.
Twickenham is a hive of entertaining venues and you will be able to
visit some of these on your tour. There are private hospitality boxes
with screens for watching the game while never leaving the comfort of
your gin and tonic. There is the President’s Suite for VIP visits.
There is the Members Lounge and its long bar with a frieze of bottles
and sporting heroes of yesteryear, and there is a quiet wood-panelled
meeting room that is lined with pictures of past presidents. It has the
air of a private members club, and that’s what it is.
It’s the dressing room that will get the big and little boys (and some
girls) dreaming. This space, along with the tunnel, has recently been
refurbished in preparation for the World Cup. Yes, you will see the
cubicles, baths, showers and medical area. There is a screen for
analysing the game at half time and even a media area for players
plugging in. For some, this dressing room is the reason to come, to
hear about match-day routines and to imagine themselves trotting
through the tunnel.
For other supporters the sight of the pristine and bright green turf
will be the highlight of the tour. There are 82,000 seats surrounding
that bit of grass. The majority are for supporters but there are the
upholstered ones for royalty and dignitaries, and a couple nearer the
pitch labelled Sin Bin! The grass is lovingly tended by a crew who mow
it, not with a sit-on contraption but with little power-driven mowers
that they push in impeccably straight lines. It’s a tight turf and as
smooth as a billiard table. As part of the tour there is a pitch-side
walk which will really give the visitor an impression of the drama of
those match days.
The tour is operated in partnership with The World Rugby Museum. All of
the Twickenham Stadium Tour Guides are trained by a blue-badge holder,
and tours can be tailored to the needs of any particular group. The
price of the tour also includes admission to the World Rugby Museum
which is well worth a visit.
Learn more here
Memphis in London
The Shaftesbury Theatre is both beautiful and historic,
and a worthy presenter of a show that is beautiful in a very
Memphis is a musical and a memorable and striking one. It is set in an
era of segregation, overt racism, poverty, and dreams. The story line
is perennial and simple but with a sting – boy meets girl, boy loses
girl. The main protagonists are Huey Calhoun and Felicia Farrell,
racism and music. These add up to be more than the sum of their
Huey is a poor, white, ill-educated clown of a chap who has a passion
for music – Black music. That’s not a claim to fame these days but we
are talking 1950s USA, and the South at that! These were troubled times
where even music had to know its place. He was on a mission to
popularise R&B and bring it to a wider audience.
A Beale Street club offers Huey a chance to immerse himself, or almost,
in black musical culture. And there was a young black singer called
Felicia who stole his heart but also showed him the brutality and
injustice of Memphis society. Huey could be musically black whenever he
wanted, but she was black every moment, noted Felicia. There were
realities to be faced.
Memphis is colourful, vibrant and a little shocking, particularly to
younger members of the theatre audience who have never actually heard
the N-word in such a public forum. There was an audible gasp from those
who had not grasped the aforementioned realities of life for non-whites
– a few gritty moments that were completely in context. There is a
hard-hitting story here which supports some cracking good songs.
Beverley Knight captivates from the first moment. In my humble opinion,
and I am no expert, she is the most polished and accomplished soul
singer around. She has the voice, for sure, but she has charm, elegance
and beauty. One warms to her character, Felicia, who has talent, humour
From 6 July 2015 the role of Huey Calhoun is played by Matt
Cardle. He has built himself a solid reputation since his success
with X-Factor. He brings sensitivity and credibility to his role along
with his powerful voice, energy and nifty moves. A great choice for the
part and for the partnership with Ms Knight, that makes Memphis so
There are other heroes in Memphis. The dancers are dazzling and the
musicians are first-rate. Don’t rush off after the stars have taken
their bows: stay until the music is really over and give those
musicians some applause too. Some nice bits of sax playing in the last
few minutes before the curtain falls.
Go to Memphis. I highly recommend this show for its social comment, its
musical score and its originality. It’s a fun show dealing with serious
issues and it’s a balance that it thoughtfully maintains. It’s a moving
story with songs that have all the style of 50s R&B.
Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre
210 Shaftesbury Avenue
Visit Shaftesbury Theatre here
For enquiries relating to the performance or general ticket enquiries
For general enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stage Door: Phone 020 7379 3345
Box Office: Phone 020 7379 5399
Fax: 020 7836 8181
Brooklands Hotel Surrey
I live in West London but whenever I consider a weekend
break I turn right instead of left at the end of the road. That takes
me to central London with the thronging crowds, fuss and rush. Lots of
excitement, it’s true, but it hardly constitutes relaxation, and
perhaps if I turn left there could be something remarkably different.
Surrey’s stylish Brooklands Hotel is how management describe this
facility. Well, I have heard it all before and have so often been
disappointed and have come away from what should have been a calming
interlude with a mind full of self-doubt regarding my sense of good
taste. Hotels with contrived edginess or faux-Victorian charm have
never quite worked for me. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover
that Brooklands Hotel honestly was stylish and absolutely fit for
The hotel has contemporary class writ large. Its tapered columns and
sweeping lines remind me of the Bauhaus movement which actually fits
well with the era of the original Brooklands racing track and Art Deco.
Its entrance is lofty from a distance but acquiring more human
proportions close-up. It has recently added 11 new bedrooms and renamed
four of the hotel’s super suites, and those suites are huge and
Brooklands Hotel is closely associated with the iconic race track which
was opened in 1907. So closely associated that the window from my suite
overlooked the aforementioned circuit. A quartz and granite outline of
the original track runs through the reception and art-deco motifs have
been introduced. There is a striking Charlie Whinny
wood sculpture in the atrium which has been inspired by the curves of
the race track.
The suites are sumptuous at Brooklands and my wide terrace offered
uninterrupted views of the modern Mercedes-Benz World race track as
well as the famous bank of the original. The skid pan acted like a
slippery magnet for amateur thrill-seekers trying their hands (and
feet) at Brooklands and a completion of a round or two would indeed be
something of which to brag to the grandchildren! There are 131 bedrooms
here and the hotel can boast some of the largest rooms of any UK hotel.
Every guest can enjoy light and airy rooms with floor-to-ceiling
windows, many of the rooms offering panoramic views of the neighbouring
Mercedes-Benz World race track.
The ‘Selwyn Edge’ Suite was mine, for the night at least. It’s named
after a racing driver as are all the suites. In June 1907, Selwyn Edge
broke the 24-hour distance record, driving a 60 hp Napier Six, at
Brooklands. In 1922 he returned to Brooklands in a Spyker, setting a
new "Double 12" world record at an average speed of 74.27 mph for the
aggregate 24 hours.
This suite was furnished and decorated in muted tones and with
furniture that would have complemented any high-end 1930s apartment. A
propeller plane in shiny steel was just what one would see gracing the
desk of an industrial mogul in old
black-and-white movies. One decorative touch that completed the elegant
One might be tempted to linger on that balcony but the spa is waiting
with treatments aplenty, and loungers on which to, well, lounge. There
is a well-equipped gym for those with temple-like bodies and a
café for the rest of us. Brooklands is one of those hotels that
offers couples with diverse interests a unique escape. The men, and
lots of women too, will want a little time behind the wheel while
others will be content to unwind with some pampering and a good book.
Brooklands Hotel has excellent facilities including the AA
Rosette-winning ‘1907 Restaurant Bar & Grill’ headed up by
celebrated chef Norman Farquharson, making this hotel something of a
mini resort. Not only does Brooklands have easy access to the
Mercedes-Benz World race track but the Brooklands Museum is just a few
minutes’ walk away and that will likely be popular with everybody.
I am impressed by Brooklands Hotel. It has accessible charm, thoughtful
accents, beauty and great amenities. The food is outstanding and
service is friendly. One can truly step away from the cares of the
world here while glimpsing a corner of another age of fast living.
Main Hotel Number: +44 (0) 1932 335700
Reservations: +44 (0) 1932 335710
Meeting & Events: +44 (0) 1932 335720
Visit Brooklands Hotel here
London Southend Airport
I am a West London girl (OK, more accurately, mature woman
of a certain age) and therefore ideally positioned for Heathrow. I have had reasonable travel experiences at
Gatwick and Stansted which are equally described as ‘London’ airports
even though the Oyster Card falls short of those marks. But Southend
sounded a long way off – I guess because it’s on the coast and kinda
Journey time from London Liverpool Street Station to Southend Airport
is in fact only 53 minutes. That makes it a contender even for those
from the Wild West. But there are a couple of considerable bonuses.
First, and this is a huge advantage, the railway station is actually at
the airport. No, not a ‘convenient and friendly’ shuttle-bus ride away,
but actually at the airport and an honest few yards from arriving or
The first train arrives at Southend Airport Railway Station at around
6.30am, with the last train departing at just past 11pm. There is the
X30 coach service which runs through the night and taxis are also
available. At peak times up to 8 trains an hour from Central London
arrive at Southend Airport. Average price for a single (off-peak)
ticket is £14.90 - discounts available for rail cards, travel
The second advantage is you won’t need parking. Public transport can
often be the most economic mode of getting to an airport if you are a
lone traveller or if there are only two of you. No fuel to pay and no
parking fees incurred. There are, naturally, plenty of parking spaces
if that is more convenient for families.
Southend Airport is new and spacious. One can grab a snack, and in
future there will be more retail outlets. But it’s the lack of crowds
that is appealing. It takes only a couple of minutes from the check-in
and bag-drop to passport control and security. There was actually
no queueing for security on my visit and that was something of a
marvel. There seems to be the expectation of increased capacity so one
hopes that this outstandingly speedy service will continue, as it makes
such a positive difference to the travel experience of Southend Airport
visitors. The airlines have a target of 700,000 additional London
Southend passengers within three years.
Business and first-class passengers are not
forgotten. There is a private lounge with the expected polished
facilities of these retreats: hot drinks, soft drinks, alcohol, snacks
and comfy chairs. I suspect that this lounge will be sought less often
here than in other international airports due to the lack of crowds,
but it’s a necessary bolt-hole and appreciated by the discerning flyer.
So the airport is easy to get to and pleasant when one is there; but an
airport, however smart, is rarely the destination for a traveller.
Where might one be going from Southend Airport? Well, there’s a
surprisingly comprehensive menu of destinations in Europe and
throughout the UK. France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and
Holland have flights from Southend. All the Flybe-branded routes are
operated by Stobart Air (yes, the lorry people) and over £120
has been invested by the Stobart Group since Southend Airport was
acquired in 2008. Aer Lingus also has three daily return services
between London Southend and Dublin, where travellers are able to take
advantage of transatlantic connections to Boston, Chicago, New York,
Orlando, San Francisco and Toronto. To anyone who has had to endure the
iffy ‘welcome’ by US passport and security staff on their home
territory, Dublin Airport’s own US Preclearance service might offer, at
least, a degree of ordinary civility.
Southend Airport might be small but it’s perfectly formed, and
conveniently located. The flights allow travellers direct access to
cities not served by other UK airports. Facilities are new and, at
present, not under pressure. It’s a model for other airports which
might like to strive to offer a better customer experience.
London Southend Airport Company Limited
Southend on Sea
Tel: +44 (0) 1702 538500
Fax: +44 (0) 1702 538501
Car Park Enquiries
Visit Southend Airport here
For information on visits to The Netherlands visit here
Ashdown Park Hotel
Ashdown Forest is an ancient area of heathland about 30
miles (48 km) south of London in East Sussex. It was
once a medieval hunting forest created soon after the Norman conquest
of 1066. The Forest continued to be used by royalty and the nobility
for hunting into Tudor times. King Henry VIII, the monarch who had a
run of bad luck with wives, had a hunting lodge at Bolebroke Castle,
and courted the unfortunate Anne Boleyn at nearby Hever Castle.
Ashdown Forest is famous as the setting for the children’s (and
adults’) Winnie-the-Pooh stories, written by A. A. Milne. The first
book featuring Winnie was published in 1926 and the second book, The
House at Pooh Corner, was published a year later.
The first grand house was erected on the present site in 1815 either by
Thomas Bradford or by Rear Admiral The Honourable Jacob Henniker. In
1867 the estate was bought by MP Thomas Charles Thompson and he
demolished the original building and built the Gothic Victorian manor
house which remains as part of this striking hotel. Later owners
of the house included G K T Fisher who inherited the estate but was
killed during the First World War. The house later became a
convent and remained in church hands for the next 50 years. Nuns had
their small cells in the East Wing and lived in typical nun-like
The building was acquired by the Elite Group in 1993 and beautifully
presented as a 4-star hotel, retaining original features but with the
benefit of modern technology. The grounds are impressive with
landscaped lawns, mature trees and deer strolling (or is that trotting)
around even close to the hotel building. The drive to the front door
entices the visitor with the expectation of something special: Ashdown
Park Hotel is not only special but delightfully unique.
This large imposing building exudes classic charm but there is nothing
stuffy or stiff here. It has all the polish and more of a 4-star hotel
but the friendliness of the staff makes one feel that this could be a
family-run B&B – admittedly the largest and best appointed you
would ever find, but it’s that personal touch that is so welcoming.
We arrived at Ashdown Park Hotel on a cold and blustery afternoon. The
reception introduces the guest to the style of the hotel: a wide,
sweeping staircase, rich soft furnishings, paintings, a piano and an
open fire. We were escorted to our room via a veritable labyrinth of
corridors. These were evidently cloisters in the building’s previous
incarnation and were lined with leaded windows of obscured glass,
perhaps so the novice nuns would not be distracted by the excitement of
a tree or a squirrel with bare ankles.
Our room was huge, with another piano in one corner. The remaining
space still left sufficient room for a game of carpet bowls. Double
doors in oak and panels in the same wood were evocative of another age.
The four-poster bed was made up with huge fluffy pillows and a duvet
that was both light and warm, and crisp white sheets that would later
be turned down by attentive staff. The bathroom was in marble with a
selection of Molton and Brown toiletries. These are some of the best soaps
and gels around and their inclusion in the hotel package shows a
no-corner-cutting approach to guest comfort.
Room facilities included satellite television with radio, direct dial
telephone with voicemail, digital clock radio, broadband internet
access, tea and coffee making facilities, personal safe, trouser press,
hairdryer, mineral water, fluffy towelling bathrobes, slippers and a
pile of books. These were Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens and just
right for this location, as their novels always described a grand house
with a four-poster – although these days we can enjoy the benefit of
It could be tempting to snuggle in the warm but there is plenty to do
without even leaving the grounds. A golf course is here, which will
suit the beginner as well as the enthusiastic frequent player. It’s an
18-hole, Par 3 course which I am sure will mean something to the sporty
set. Anyway it’s a healthy walk around a stunning park.
For the rest of us who are content to gently unwind Ashdown Park offers
exclusive spa treatments by Kerstin Florian, who specialises in using
natural elements including mineral water, mud, algae, herbal extracts
and essential oils. You can be pampered into a contented doze. Guests
at the hotel can make full use of the club's facilities, which include
an indoor heated swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna and steam room.
Revitalise Spa Salon opening times:
Sun – Wed 09.00 – 18.00
Thurs – Sat 09.00 – 20.30
There is a wealth of character here to remind the guest of the
building’s history. The chapel still exists but it's now an
event space that hosts society wedding parties. There is a mezzanine
floor which doubles the space and can accommodate large functions in a
self-contained area with its own bar.
The walls of those cloister hallways are hung with sepia pictures of
nuns going about their duties in this very building. Granted, it was
spartan in those days but I don’t doubt that those nuns would have
looked after the fabric of the building better than any other group.
There is crispness about the architecture here alongside the
sympathetic modernisation. Stained glass glints and wood glows, and
it’s as if time stood still round about 1930.
The word Anderida is Roman in origin, meaning ‘hunting ground’, but
it’s also the name of the destination restaurant at Ashdown Park. It
has 2 AA rosettes: just one glance at the restaurant and you will be
assured that they are well deserved.
The Anderida is classically beautiful with high windows giving views
across the lawns to the lake with its fountains. White linen is snowy
in contrast to the gold of the upholstery and walls. The tables are
laid with fine china, glasses and tall elegant white candles. Yes,
that’s the word, elegant, and that quality is reflected is both
furnishings and food. This room has doubtless changed considerably
since those days when the sisters glided around
the rooms, although you might still see the occasional little black
dress. The right colour but just lacking those extra yards of fabric.
Executive chef Andrew Wilson (see interview here) describes his food as
Contemporary British. He sources his fresh produce locally whenever
possible but his presentation is modern and his combination of
ingredients is inspired. The arrangement might be 21st century but
service here harks back to a gentler age when dining room etiquette was
de rigeur. Main dishes arrive domed, with these covers being
simultaneously raised for every diner at the table. I have always loved
the theatre of that flourish.
Those domes might be covering Gressingham Duck Spring Roll, Seared
Squid, Oriental Fillet Dumplings and Ginger. That’s one of Andrew’s
signature dishes although he is not keen on that term. He prefers to
say that it’s the one of the dishes that is always on the menu.
My starter was a Pithivier (‘pithivier’ is a round, enclosed pie)
filled with duck on a bed of greens. The duck was moist and flavourful
and the pastry flaky. A delicious parcel with potential to be a main
course if one used a saucer instead of a tumbler-sized cutter.
Andrew had recommended the Beef Wellington as he is particularly proud
of the beef, which is hung for 30 days or so. This was real Beef
Wellington rather than the increasingly popular deconstructed version
of separately cooked pastry and beef. Andrew is a Wellington purist: a
fillet of beef with a layer of paté and then wrapped in pancakes
before being encased in puff pastry. The centre of the beef was rosy
and just rare enough not to ooze red juices. Don’t miss this if it’s on
Another nod to timeless tradition is the trolleys. A cheese trolley is
a rarity these days but it’s a sight to savour. The Anderida offers a
selection of British cheeses and a guest local cheese accompanied by
homemade bread, relishes, celery, grapes and apples; and it’s been a
long time since I have seen a silver box containing crackers.
Taking cheese here is an event.
For those with a sweet tooth there is the dessert trolley. You will
likely have been admiring this during the course of your dinner. You
might even have made up your mind which of these confections has your
name on it, even before it is steered in your direction.
The top shelf held a glossy chocolate gateau. It’s the type of
centrepiece that takes courage to order. Nobody wants to be the first
to take a slice and ruin its divine symmetry. The rest of the trolley
groaned under the weight of strudel, fruit pie, mousse and also fruit
salad for those who have rather over-indulged in the previous courses.
Ashdown Park Hotel offers accessible refinement from the moment you
drive through the gates, to your last sip of breakfast tea. The guest
is made to feel welcome and important. The service is second to none
with those old-fashioned touches that make a difference. An Elite hotel
Monday to Friday: 7am – 9.30am
Saturday: 7am – 10am
Sunday: 8am – 10am
Monday to Saturday: 12pm – 2pm
Sunday Lunch: 12.30pm - 3pm
Sunday to Thursday: 7pm – 9:30pm
Friday and Saturday: 7pm - 10pm
Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club
Nr Forest Row,
Phone: 01342 824988
Fax: 01342 826206
Visit Ashdown Park here
The English Riviera
It sounds unlikely, ‘English Riviera’, but it honestly
does have some of those much-admired attributes of its French
counterpart. We think of smart restaurants, sand, yachts and palms, and
yes, our home-grown version has all that plus a few advantages that the
Continental one doesn’t. It’s not so far from home, the waiters aren’t
as rude and it’s a lot cheaper.
The Torbay area has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times and Roman
soldiers are known to have visited Torquay during the period when
Britain was a part of the Roman Empire, leaving offerings at the rock
formation in Kents Cavern known as "The Face". Both Brixham and
Paignton appear in the Domesday Book, and Paignton was given the status
of a borough having a market and fair in 1294. There is a statue in
Brixham to William Prince of Orange (afterwards King William III) who
landed there on 5 November 1688.
Torbay hosted the sailing events for the 1948 Summer Olympics in London,
the first Olympics after the war, and the organisers couldn’t have found a better spot. The English Riviera lies along a 22 mile
South Devon’s coastline. It encompasses the three main towns of
Torquay, Paignton and Brixham and has international Geopark status (a
territory encompassing one or more sites of scientific importance, not
only for geological reasons but also by virtue of its archaeological,
ecological or cultural value). It has that celebrated mild climate
which allows the cultivation of palms and other exotic plants.
Some of the very best West Country produce can be found on the English
Riviera and there is even a dedicated Food and Drink Trail. One can
find home-made ciders, beers, wines and cheeses as well as the freshest
of fish and farm produce. Every visitor would have heard of the famous
Devon Cream Tea and the English Riviera offers lots of venues for a
nice sit-down, a cuppa and a plate of warm scones. These are served
with cream and jam, but traditional cakes of all kinds can be found in
cafés and tearooms the length of the coast.
Torquay has an attractive and sophisticated waterfront with pavement
cafés reminiscent of those on that other Riviera, and chic
seafood restaurants, and there is a selection of boutiques to gladden
the heart of anyone in need of retail therapy. You will find much more
to buy here than a bucket and spade. At night you have theatres and
bars. Food and drink events in Torquay showcase the very best in local
produce but its restaurants are open all year to allow the visitor to
taste the local seafood.
One of the most iconic of smart hotels in Torquay is The Palace. It
stands on 25 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens extending to the
sea. It’s one of the largest hotels in Torquay and boasts classically
comfy rooms and public spaces as well as sports facilities. One can swim
and play golf and, naturally, croquet. Those aforementioned caverns
are only a short walk from the
hotel, for those who want to spend a more leisurely few hours.
Paignton remained a small fishing village until the early 19th century
when a new harbour was built in 1837. Paignton has five attractive
beaches including Goodrington Sands which has the UK's only outdoor
waterpark. Occombe Farm and Cookery School near Paignton provides
fresh, local and organic produce and cookery workshops. Chocolatier
Tony Fagan runs Cockington Court Café. Hunts Cider of Paignton
will give you a taste of that traditional amber apple beverage, but if
beer is your preferred tipple then you can visit Bays Brewery in
Paignton and sample their famous Devon Dumpling brew. Torbay Coast and
Countryside Trust offers food related events including the unique
‘Mussels by Moonlight’ and ‘Sea to Plate’ boat trips.
Brixham is both a tourist resort and a working fishing port and has a
new fish market with a restaurant and deli, Crab Quay House. Fishstock,
the seafood and music festival on the new fish quay is popular with
locals and visitors. Brixham's life revolves around its picturesque
harbour with its fishing boats and the regular ferries which offer
crossings to Torquay and other ports around Torbay for just a couple of
pounds. For kids with lively imaginations there is a replica of Sir
Francis Drake's Golden Hind, and during the summer they can take part
in Pirate Thursday when the majority of the town sports a patch over
one eye and carries a cutlass instead of an iPhone. Two of the world’s
best loved and most popular hymns, Abide with Me and Praise, my soul,
the King of Heaven were written at the Berry Head Hotel
in Brixham by the Reverend Henry Lyte.
I had not been to Torbay for half a century and I had few memories
but they were all fond. Yes, it has changed but it still offers
polished elegance as well as traditional seaside fun. The prices are very
reasonable so now is an ideal time to visit. You will enjoy a warm
welcome along with those warm scones and that warm sun.
Visit The English Riviera here
Visit Kents Cavern here
Visit Crab Quay House here
Visit The Palace Hotel, Torquay here
Agatha Christie’s Torbay
This is a lovely part of Britain. Its climate is famed, as
are its palms. It displays many of the characteristics of the “other”
Riviera, an ideal place to paint and even write. But, on the face of it, one
wouldn’t expect those jottings to be about murder, and one
would be still more shocked to realise that the setting for many of the
dastardly deeds was actually this sparkling idyll.
Agatha Christie is the most celebrated daughter of Torquay on the South
Devon coast. She was born in 1890 and named Agatha Mary Clarissa
Miller. She married Archibald Christie on Christmas Eve 1914. The Grand
Hotel on Torquay’s seafront was the honeymoon hotel, and today it marks
the start of the Agatha Christie Mile, which takes in many of the
places significant to the author. Close to the Tourist Centre is a
sculpture of Agatha Christie. The bronze bust was unveiled on September
15th, 1990 by her daughter, Mrs Rosalind Hicks, to commemorate the
centenary of the author’s birth.
The First World War found Agatha working as a nurse at Torquay Town
Hall, which had been converted into a Red Cross hospital. It’s there
that she gained her knowledge of poisons, and that was to come in handy
a little later.
Agatha Christie's first novel ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ was
published in 1920 and introduced the popular
detective Hercule Poirot. No fewer than fifteen of Agatha Christie's
crime novels are set in Devon, or have connections with the county.
The famous caves at Kents Cavern in Torquay were Agatha Christie's
inspiration for Hempsley Cavern in 'The Man in the Brown Suit' (1924).
These caves are unique and atmospheric, and artefacts from the Roman
era have been found inside. They are open during the day, but their
scary night-time tours are popular with locals and tourists who are
looking for a bit of a thrill!
Anyone interested in the life of one of Britain’s best loved authors
will want to visit Greenway. In 1938, Agatha bought the Greenway Estate
near Brixham with her second husband, Max Mallowan. (Greenway becomes
Nasse House in ‘Dead Man's Folly’.) Agatha Christie always knew about
the magnificent house perched on the high banks above the picturesque
River Dart. It was to become her holiday home where she would play her
piano and perhaps just take a few notes for future books. Greenway
became the home of her daughter Rosalind and son-in-law, Anthony Hicks.
One can listen to a recording of Agatha’s voice and imagine the Grande
Dame of crime dressed in something floaty and thirties, sipping a gin
and tonic, entertaining posh guests who would be smoking cheroots.
The library is one of the most striking rooms. It’s not large but is
noteworthy for the hand-painted frieze that runs around the top of the
wall. It was painted in 1943 by Lt Marshall Lee, when the house was
occupied by the US Coastguard. It depicts many of the important events
of their personal war. It starts by showing their base in Key West,
Florida, and it ends with an image of the house with an Infantry
Landing Craft in the river below.
Agatha Christie frequently visited Lord and Lady Churston
at their manor house in Churston
village. With the proceeds of one of her books she donated a stained
glass window to Churston Church. Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings
travelled by steam railway in ‘The ABC Murders’ (1936), where Churston
station is mentioned. Agatha renames the station 'Nassecombe' in ‘Dead
Man's Folly’ (1956).
One can reach Greenway House via a steep track from Greenway Quay.
Poirot discovers a large bell and a notice 'Ring for the Ferry'. That
bell is also mentioned in ‘Ordeal by Innocence’ (1958). Across the
river lies the village of Dittisham (re-named Gitcham in ‘Dead Man's
Folly’), which can be reached by the passenger ferry.
Agatha Christie might seem a bit Old School but her books are still
being read and appreciated across the globe. They have been translated
into more than 100 languages. Her novels have sold roughly four billion
copies, and her estate claims that her works rank third, after those of
William Shakespeare and the Bible, as the most widely published books.
A rare edition of an Agatha Christie novel, which originally cost 37p,
has sold for more than £40,000 at auction. The 1924 edition of
‘Poirot Investigates’, with a dust jacket showing the detective, went
for a world record price, beating the previous largest sum paid
for an Agatha Christie book of £10,000.
This area has so much to offer any lover of the novels of Agatha
Christie but a visit here will be far from a dry and dusty literary
tour. There are gardens, beaches, caves, and tranquillity. That steam
railway will transport you back to a gentler time. The English Riviera
has changed over the past century but it’s still easy to see why that
author chose to stay.
Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway
Dart Valley Railway, Queen's Park Station, Torbay Road, Paignton TQ4 6AF
Cavern House, 89/91 Ilsham Road, Torquay TQ1 2JF
Torquay Tourist Information Centre
Vaughan Parade, Torquay TQ2 5JG
Brockencote Hall for
Joseph and Alison Petitjean have owned and run Brockencote
Hall for the last 24 years. They had been living in France
just married, and they had a dream of opening a country house
hotel in England. They visited properties suitable for conversion to an
hotel and settled on Brockencote Hall. They bought the building in 1985
and 10 months later Brockencote was ready for business.
The restaurant here is popular with locals around Worcestershire and
with the AA who awarded the restaurant 2 Rosettes in 2008. It’s not
only the food that’s a draw – they have a notable wine list. This grand
house is described as “A little piece of France in the heart of
England” so that country’s wines are well represented.
We visited Brockencote on a bright spring day. Daffs were glowing and
new-born lambs were gamboling. The
Worcestershire countryside was at its fresh and budding best and the
Hall looked impressive in the sunshine. The estate
dates back 300 years or so with 70 acres of established trees and
pasture. This is the sort of stately home that tourists as well as we
British love so much.
The entrance hall had a welcoming log fire burning which was
appropriate for the day. Spring, yes, but this is England and the wind
was chilly. The contemporary bar and conservatory was where we nestled
to peruse the menu. Not a long bill of fare but just as one would wish
from a high-end kitchen where quality is always paramount – and using
seasonal and local produce where possible.
The main dining room (there are others for private dining) is stunning.
High windows looked out onto some of those aforementioned acres. The
house exudes an air of cultivated tranquillity and charm, and that
includes the dining room which is an exercise in pastel shades – a room
that has contrived to retain its original majesty yet has introduced
We started with an amuse bouche, a demi-tasse of one of the most
memorable soups I have ever had: a gloriously rich and creamy carrot
and orange soup. (Note to reviewer: ask John for the recipe). A balance
of sweet from the vegetable and tang from the citrus and then there was
a deft application of aromatic seasoning. This should be a signature
Slow Cooked Belly of Jimmy Butlers Pork, Cabbage and Bacon, Spiced
Apple, Pommery Mustard Jus was the main course. Well worth trying and
one of the best examples of this trendy cut of meat that I have had in
a while. The meat was flavourful and melting and the presentation
thoughtful. I am not keen on pork belly with crackling. It seldom works
and, in my humble opinion, it’s inappropriate for a slow-cooked item
when one wants to enjoy the almost gelatinous quality of meat,
flavourful fat and rind. Perfect!
The desserts here are visual stunners! OK, so I didn’t just give them
admiring glances, I was enticed by a couple and scoffed
mine and a good percentage of my companion’s. That’s not perhaps a very
genteel word but one only “nibbles” when being polite. I, on the other
hand, enjoyed every spoonful with appropriate epicurean passion.
Goats Cheese Mousse, Poached Rhubarb, Gingerbread, Vanilla Ice Cream
was my own choice and this was a delicious example of traditional
ingredients as a canvas for culinary artistry. Sharp mousse, sweet
rhubarb, punctuated with the spiced cake.
My guest’s choice of dessert was equally appreciated ...by both of us.
Well, I was the official reviewer and it was my duty to taste, and in
this case Parsnip Pannacotta, Caramelised Apple, Shortbread Crumb,
Brioche Ice Cream. A slice of fruit like a disc of translucent glass
balanced atop this unique parsnip preparation, which rather made one
look at that root vegetable in a different light. A tapestry of texture
and taste. Perhaps a parsnip is not just for Christmas but can actually
be enjoyed! Another seasonal winner.
Chef John Sherry is a man content with his kitchen. He should be:
Alison and Joseph rebuilt the old kitchen which
had become too small for such a successful restaurant. It’s now twice
the original size and is worked by a seven-strong team. They cook 350
or so lunches and dinners a week, as well as catering for weddings and
private dinner parties.
It’s no surprise that they have so many regular diners at Brockencote
Hall. The restaurant is striking, the staff attentive but not pushy,
and the food is as good as you will find either side of La Manche. I
look forward to a return visit. I’ll unwind in the lounge, take a
stroll around the grounds to build an appetite for what I am sure will
be a superb dinner. This is indeed a destination restaurant.
Two Courses £17.00
Three Courses £22.00
Brockencote Hall Country House Hotel & Restaurant
Chaddesley Corbett, Near Kidderminster, Worcestershire DY10 4PY
Phone: 01562 777876
Fax: 01562 777872
Manor Cookery School and B & B
Eckington Manor is just outside the market town of
Pershore, Worcestershire, and could well provide one of the most
memorable breaks you have had in the UK. Well, if you are passionate
about food that’s almost bound to be the case.
Eckington Manor is well situated for exploring both Worcestershire and
the Cotswolds. Visit the Malvern Hills, historic Worcester cathedral,
Cheltenham, and play a round of golf at the Vale Golf Club, just 15
minutes away. Worcestershire is a rich culinary destination, though. It
produces some of the best British fruit and veg and that land also
feeds prize herds of cows and sheep and pigs. What better place for a
cookery school and especially one that has a farm tagged on?
Your original intention might have been to take a course at the
celebrated cookery school but, human nature being what it is, you will
be just as interested in where you will lay your head for a night or
two. It’s probable that you will be shown your room
before you even don an apron, and you will be astounded. This will
likely be the best Bed & Breakfast experience you
The main accommodation building is a sympathetically restored 13th
century farmhouse. Worcestershire boasts some marvellous examples of
homes from every century since parish records began. Around the corner
of every picturesque country lane one can find chocolate-box cottages
or even farm buildings that one might be tempted to buy and convert
into a dream home. That’s almost what Judy Gardner did when she
acquired a rundown half-timbered structure, but her dream was to
incorporate that soon-to-be stunner into a successful business of
high-end accommodation and cookery school.
This isn’t just any old house. It’s said to be one of the
oldest in Worcestershire. Its wooden beams are not just a characterful
feature of the exterior, and there are original flagstone floors and
fireplaces (with wood-burning stoves ideal for those cold winter
nights), all of which have been retained and showcased on the inside of
this cosy B & B. This should have a name other than ‘B & B’,
which conjures visions of a stay in someone’s back bedroom, a sink in
the corner and a pile of mismatched and sandpapery towels. Eckington
Manor, on the other hand, is as good as you will find anywhere and can
compete with the very best of boutique 5-star hotels.
It might have been tempting for Judy to play too much on the historic
aspect of this old building. There could have been too many rustic
touches of copper, brass and farm implements. Ever a woman of refined
taste, she has focused on the contemporary with daring dashes of
colour. The chaise-longue on the upper landing is said to have come
from the “big house” in Windsor. I can’t prove it and I only say it’s
Our room was a vision of sophistication with a French chair contrasted
against original stonework, crisp white linen acting as a counterpoint
to the aforementioned beams. The bathroom was striking with piles of
fluffy towels, and toiletries to match the class of the amenities.
Attention to detail and no corners cut with regard to quality and
elegance. We slept soundly after a good meal at a local restaurant.
There are light meals available here on request, too.
We were looking forward to breakfast at the school which is just across
the yard. A modern building housing not only the school kitchen but a
restaurant for breakfast and a kitchen shop which is well worth a look.
The breakfast did not disappoint,
with the ingredients being locally sourced – apart from the orange
juice, tea and coffee. The farm sausages should not be
missed. We had a chance to meet our fellow students who ranged in age
from early twenties with no previous conviction for kitchen behaviour,
to others who were seasoned veterans of the range.
This was the first time I has attended a hands-on cooking class. I have
enjoyed many a cooking demonstration at close quarters but this was far
more rewarding even for a fairly practised home cook like me. Paul and
Chris were our chefs and they evidently had a wealth of experience,
giving confidence to the wary novice and expert advanced tuition to the
enthusiast. We had a knife-skill master class and prepared two dishes.
There were no failures, although the intricate garnishes proved to be
more taxing to accomplish than the preparation of the 2-course meal! A
positive learning experience and great fun.
We took the plates of food we had made with our very own, and now more
able, hands to the dining room and enjoyed the fruits of our labours.
Potato ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and served with a mushroom sauce,
followed by salmon en papillote with julienned vegetables. A glass of
wine with new-found friends completed a couple of days touring one of
Britain’s most beautiful counties.
Eckington Manor is polished. It offers its guests a chance to relax in
a unique environment of bespoke chic comfort. Whilst the classes are
not compulsory it would be a shame to let such an opportunity pass.
There are lots of courses to choose from and all conducted by
professionals: Italian, Thai, Great British Classics, Modern British,
Bread, and Fish classes, courses for children, teenagers, students and
one just for men. I can thoroughly recommend a stay here.
Eckington Manor Cookery School
Manor Road, Eckington, Worcestershire WR10 3BH
Phone: 01386 751600
Fax: 01386 751362
Visit Eckington Manor here
The Elms Hotel
This is an imposing Queen Anne mansion. Go on, admit it,
you can’t remember who Queen Anne was and didn’t know she was a
builder. The Elms dates from 1710 and the exterior has all the elegant
proportions of a stately home of that period. It was designed by
architect Thomas White who was a pupil of the renowned Sir Christopher
Wren, designer of St Paul’s Cathedral. The house was sold in 1946 and
was turned into a country house hotel.
The Elms is set in formal gardens and is surrounded by ten acres or so
of parkland. This is very rural Worcestershire, and the house offers
idyllic views over the Teme Valley and a good number of other counties.
This is a perfectly-located base for trips to enjoy local festivals
such as the annual celebration of Asparagus, and to soak up a little
history in Worcester and its neighbouring towns. Malvern and Evesham
are within easy reach.
The hotel has been completely refurbished but many of the public rooms
retain the air of the traditional stately home.
Dark wood, leather sofas and chairs and open fires exude old-fashioned
charm that tourists so love – or would if they could
find it. Paintings and busts of people that must have been famous all
add to the impression that this might still be someone’s ancestral pile.
But The Elms is indeed a hotel and one that, surprisingly, is catering
for families. Yes, families can book into any hotel but youngsters are
more often just tolerated rather than welcomed. I had been expecting a
Jolly Campers establishment with a uniformed glee club, but a childless
adult here would have to seek out the child-friendly elements – there
is nothing excessively kiddy-oriented at the Elms.
There is a baby-listening service so parents can leave the room and go
for a thoroughly adult dinner with no worries about returning to a
red-in-the-face and tearful tot. There is plenty to amuse those little
ones during the day with their own Bears Den crèche (Ofsted
registered). For older children, there’s an air-hockey machine,
tabletop football, board games and an Xbox. Sounds as good as home! You
might even coax the kids outside for croquet, outdoor table tennis,
football, trampoline and there is an outdoor adventure playground.
The Elms boasts a family spa with a 12-metre swimming pool, thermal
retreat with steam room, sauna and ice fountain (I am not sure I like
the sound of that), Rasul mud therapy room, state-of-the-art gym
equipment, and an indoor/outdoor Hydro Spa – that’s a spot for all the
family to enjoy.
Our room was attractive and cosy. Stunning views over
those aforementioned counties. The bathroom was well appointed and had
a selection of high-end Spa toiletries, as one would hope at a hotel
with a pampering annex. Tea and coffee-making
facilities in the corner so we unwound, soaked and snoozed till dinner.
Head Chef Daren Bale has built The Elms’ fine dining reputation. He has
won many accolades, including 2 AA Rosettes, Best British Cheeseboard,
and Worcestershire Life’s 2007/2008 Restaurant of the Year. The dining
room is elegant and striking with tables set with brass candlesticks
and tall, white candles that gave one the impression of perhaps a
classic French restaurant, the style of restaurant that encourages
guests to speak quietly and probably about the arts or the latest in
the Financial Times.
Pressing of Goose and Foie Gras, Pear, Pickled Wild
Mushroom and Haricot Bean Dressing was my starter. The terrine was
dense and flavourful. This would have made a very classy lunch item.
The presentation was appealing and the garnishes appropriate for the
Velouté of Jerusalem Artichoke, Langoustine, Peas and Lemon was
my companion’s choice – a delicious bowl of delicate seafood and soup.
This is the sort of dish that you’ll likely not cook at home. Not too
difficult to replicate but this style of food is best enjoyed in a
stunning, high-ceilinged, tall-windowed, imposing-fireplaced dining
room. But perhaps you have one of those, chez vous.
We had seen lots of lambs on our drive to Worcester so it seemed a
fitting, if slightly cruel, irony to eat some on our
arrival. My guest ordered English Lamb with Stuffed Courgettes and
pronounced this to be a well-balanced and
thoughtful dish. The courgettes were filled with melting and evidently
slow-cooked meat, with peppers adding a sweet note.
Pancetta-wrapped Monkfish, Chicken Confit Ravioli, Butter-glazed
Carrots & Ginger took my fancy. Yes, I know it’s a classic choice
but it’s popular because it is, done well, a memorable dish. It was
indeed done well at The Elms. The previous plates had indicated that it
probably would be. The flesh of the seafood was moist and the pancetta
added just the right slightly salty counterpoint. I was a little
uncertain about the garnish of chicken ravioli bit this too worked
well, adding a soft and savoury gastronomic cushion. I can recommend
this monkfish as the best I have had in many months.
We wanted to try The Elms’ celebrated cheese board, so had to skip the
desserts. I would, however, have liked to have tried the Pear and
Cranberry Strudel with Peanut Butter Ice Cream. That ice cream sounds
We have marvellous cheeses here in Britain and it’s refreshing to find
a restaurant that promotes them. So many establishments boast that they
celebrate local produce but then present French cheese with only a nod
to these Isles in the guise of a slab of Cheddar. We wanted to taste
some very local cheese and so selected Blue Cheshire - Nantwich,
Bosworth Ash - Staffordshire, Old Worcester White and the star of the
plate, St Eadburgha made in the Vale of Evesham. This unique cheese is
made at Gorsehill Abbey Farm by Michael and Diane Stacey. St Eadburgha
is a Brie style of cheese and it’s organic but most importantly it is
creamy and delicious. This should be in the cool-box of every
homeward-bound tourist from Worcestershire. I am only sorry it was not
in ours, but a return trip is in order.
The Elms is an ideal hotel for extended families. It isn’t a cheap
option but it introduces younger members of the family to a real hotel.
Children will find plenty to do, parents will have space and quiet to
themselves, and grandparents can enjoy grandchildren in small doses and
then escape to an armchair and a good book, or a terrace and a glass of
something reviving. A unique family holiday destination.
Stockton, Abberley, Worcester, WR6 6AT
Tel: 01299 896666
Visit The Elms here
The Fleece Inn for
Perhaps Robin Hood had a local, and if he did I would
suppose it looked just like The Fleece Inn. This isn’t a Disneyesque
themed facsimile of an ancient public house. This is the real thing,
and stunning it is.
The Fleece Inn has an idyllic rural location on a picture-perfect
village square. Lots of honey-coloured stone cottages as it’s just a
stone's throw from the Cotswolds. It was originally built as a
traditional longhouse in the time of Chaucer. It’s quite staggering to
learn that The Fleece has been owned by that same family for virtually
the whole time, with just a few alterations made to the building in
Tudor and Elizabethan days.
A farmer called Henry Byrd Taplin thought that running a pub was better
business than running a farm, and I am sure there are many farmers
today who would agree with him. In 1848 the farmhouse became a licensed
This was a regular home that had a licence
to sell alcohol, and the Fleece Inn was just that; it still retains the
air of a cottage. Henry sold beer and cider from his home, and beer was
still being brewed in the back kitchen of the building well into the
The last owner was a direct descendent of the man who first built the
inn. Miss Lola Taplin lived in The Fleece until she died in 1977. She
thoughtfully bequeathed the inn to The National Trust, making it the
first pub in the country to be owned by the charity. It’s said that
Miss Taplin still watches over the pub: there is an owl that perches on
the barn roof and some say it’s she just keeping an eye on the old
The Fleece Inn is everything a good pub should be. It’s
places like this that made English pubs so famous around
the world. It’s steeped in convivial continuity and charming history.
There is what is said to be the county’s second largest
collection of pewter (the Queen having the first). It’s been on display
here for around 300 years.
The original fireplaces offer welcome cosiness in cool weather and fill
the pub with that almost forgotten aroma of burning logs. Those fires
nearly heralded the end of the pub when in 2004 some sparks caused a
fire that took part of the roof and upper floor. Everything has since
been sympathetically restored. There are painted circles in front of
the hearth and those are supposed to prevent witches from entering via
the chimney. I guess Worcester witches can’t open doors.
If these walls could talk they would tell of hundreds of years of
historic events: coronations, plague, civil war, electric light and
inside plumbing – the latter two being thankfully taken advantage of at
The Fleece. The dark wood tables and chairs are in keeping with the
character of the pub, and the print of Shakespeare reminds us that the
Bard himself might have passed by this very building.
Real ales and ciders are celebrated at the Fleece but we were here for
the food, and the menu reflected the best of pub grub. Nothing too
cheffy but good solid fare with plenty of choice. It was early spring
so still cold enough to justify some traditional and hearty dishes.
I was looking for lunches that I could talk about on Alan Coxon's
internet radio show. He is one of Britain’s most decorated, awarded and
certified chefs and recognises a good hostelry when he sees one. Alan
lives locally and this
is a favourite. He has been known to settle himself on the settle,
relax and toast his food-historian toes by the historic fire. We did
the same and consulted the menu. I was tempted by the Traditional Local
Faggots but it’s an international radio show and a so-named dish could
have caused misunderstanding...nay, offence!
I ordered Local Sausages served with Chive Mash, Buttered Garden Peas
and Red Wine Gravy. This was a substantial plateful that would have set
up a peckish farm worker for an afternoon in the fields. The sausages
were mildly seasoned, the gravy was rich and the mash didn’t come from
a packet. I found but one small lump to verify to its gastronomic
My guest decided on the Steak and Mushroom Pie, served with Braised Red
Cabbage, Curly Kale, New Potatoes and Gravy. This is a classic pie and
I think we British do savoury pies better than most. The pastry has to
be good and the filling must be flavourful and made with the
best-quality ingredients. This one evidently was. I could tell by the
reluctance with which my companion offered me a taste.
Worcestershire seems to have lots of high-quality meat products as well
as abundant fresh produce. It’s not surprising that the county is
something of a Mecca for food lovers. It’s places like The Fleece Inn
which remind us that good traditional food in Britain is not dead, it’s
just in hiding. It’s been a pleasure to seek it out in this lovely
county. I am planning a return visit.
The Fleece Inn
The Cross, Bretforton, Nr Evesham, Worcester WR11 7JE
Tel: 01386 831173
Visit The Fleece here
Monday and Tuesday: 11am - 3pm, 6pm - 11pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 11am - 11pm
Food Service Hours
Monday to Saturday: 12pm - 2.30pm, 6.30pm - 9pm
Sunday: 12pm - 4pm, 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Brasserie Worcestershire for dinner
One can search for Italian food in all the famous towns
that boast true Italian or Tuscan culinary heritage: Florence, Siena,
Hawbridge, Pisa, Grosseto. We take advantage of fresh produce,
delicious dressed pasta and desserts fit to ruin any diet. The tourist
soaks up the history of those Italian... but... Hawbridge doesn’t sound
very Italian. Well, it truly is a long way from Italy but it can still
be described as a culinary hub, and in our own very accessible
This transplantation is not due to continental drift. It’s just the home
of Fusion Brasserie and it’s the showcase for celebrated Chef Felice
Tocchini, who has had a surprisingly long career. He got his first job
in the food and beverage industry at the tender age of six – his
parents had a bar in a Tuscan village and it was Felice's job to make
The experience at the espresso machine obviously inspired Felice. At
fourteen, he embarked on a three-year cookery course at
the Ferdinando Martini Catering College in Montecatini Terme. He worked
in hotel kitchens and ski resorts during his holidays. In 1988 he was
invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Theatre restaurants as a Commis
Chef. Later, Felice became head chef at the Seymour House Hotel in
Chipping Campden and eventually became Chef Manager, remaining there
for over 15 years.
In 2004 Felice and his wife Fiorinda opened their own restaurant.
Fusion opened originally in Alcester; eighteen months later they moved
to a more suitable site and that was the Bird in Hand, Hawbridge,
Stoulton, Worcestershire, where they’ve now settled.
Felice now owns two award-winning restaurants in Worcestershire -
Fusion Brasserie and Fusion Too. His wife and son Daniel work with him,
Fiorinda as front of house manager and Daniel as a chef. Felice is
passionate about local ingredients and works with growers and producers
to promote even the least-adored veggies like the humble sprout. The
menu changes with the seasons so every visit will offer something new.
We were looking forward to good food in a casual and contemporary
restaurant. Contemporary, yes, but Fusion isn’t stark and minimalist.
The walls are painted and unfussy, but the muted maroon and cream were
thoughtful colours that helped to create a cosy ambiance in an open
restaurant space. I was very much taken by the unique salt and pepper
mills on each table. These and other food-related products can be yours
with no need to resort to theft. Fusion has its own shop displaying the
chef’s food products and local crafts.
We had earlier enjoyed a good lunch and arrived less than ravenous, so
settled on what we thought would be moderate-sized dishes. But this
truly was a little bit of Italy and we soon realised that we would go
home stuffed and contented.
We started with breads and dips – Pane casereccio – artisan breads,
served with sun-blush tomato and fusion hummus. This was a considerable
display of the chef’s baking skills as well as a presentation of simple
yet flavourful spreads. Some fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar
wafted us back to a much less comfortable restaurant in southern Italy
many years ago. No, the best Italian restaurants are not necessarily
back in the old country.
has more to do with integrity of ingredients than geography.
My companion was tempted by the prospect of some beef - Filetto al
Piatto. Thin slices of Aberdeen Angus placed on an extremely hot plate
arrived sizzling and in theatrical fashion, aromatic with garlic and
herbs. The chunky chips were indeed just that – chunky, crisp on the
outside with fluffy interior. My guest was delighted with his
meal and pronounced the meat to be tender and full of flavour. A
deceptively simple dish that once again relies on the quality of the
key ingredient. This is a restaurant that has confidence in its
I felt a pasta was in order. Fusion is, after all, an Italian
restaurant. Just a modest bowl of oil- and garlic-dressed pasta with
some sweet sprouting greens was what I expected and that’s what I got.
Well, not a modest bowl – remember, this is transplanted Italy. The
pasta was cooked, as one would expect, to perfection – al dente. Oil,
but just enough, chilli sufficient to create a glow, and garlic just
for pure rich flavour. A classic dish and enough to defeat a rugby
Fiorinda tempted us with a little taste of dessert. Six little culinary
masterpieces arrived and proved the rule that states that however full
one is there is always a little nook available for something sweet. We
nibbled sponge pudding, savoured sorbet, treated ourselves to just
another bite of tiramisu... The list seemed endless but we enjoyed
those sweets so much that we were glad it was.
We had intended an early night but in true Italian fashion the conversation
with our hosts flowed freely. This chef is generous. Yes, the portions
are substantial but his generosity extends not only to plates but to
people. His passion and pride are evident. His skill is unquestionable
and his enthusiasm contagious. A warm evening of marvellous food and
Opening Times Fusion Brasserie:
Lunch: Tues-Sat 11.30am-3.00pm (last orders 2.30pm)
Dinner: 5.30pm-close (last orders 9.30pm)
Sunday: 12.00 pm - 4.00 pm (last orders 2.30pm)
Restaurant review: Fusion
Brasserie, Hawbridge, Stoulton, Worcestershire WR7 4RJ.
Phone: +44 (0)1905 840647.
Visit Fusion Brasserie here
Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay
Hotel review: Plenty of history
here. During World War One the hotel was used as a field hospital. Several
years ago refurbishment works uncovered spent ammunition, empty cigarette
packets, and a priceless collection of WWII documents under the floor of
bedroom 10... Read More
Hotel TerraVina for Bed and Breakfast
Hotel review: We are blessed with many fine hotels in the UK. All the 5*
chains are well represented in all major cities. But we also have a
wealth of boutique and Country House hotels and each is unique and
characterful. The New Forest is beautiful and mostly unspoilt and it
also has hotels which reflect the area’s style... Read More
Hotel TerraVina Dining
Restaurant review: Hotel TerraVina is a gem. It’s a well-appointed house – well, it seems like someone’s home (read the accommodation review here). A line
of colourful wellies in the hall welcomes the arriving guests. The rooms are
individually designed and the beds... Read More
Beresford’s at Balmer Lawn for a touch of Thai
Recipe: Don’t miss a visit to Beresford’s, and Lobster Lemongrass Lime Leaf Risotto is a must-try. It has all the aromatic flavours of traditional Thai curries but without the heat. There is nothing to overpower the delicate taste of the seafood. If you can’t get to Beresford’s for a while then here is the recipe... Read More
Careys Manor Hotel
Hotel review: The main entrance of Careys Manor is just what one would hope for in a
former Victorian hunting lodge. Its reception is oak panelled with an
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The Montagu Arms
Hotel review: The Montagu Arms is blessed with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The
Terrace is presided over by Chef Matthew Tomkinson. He has a passion
for local and seasonal produce. He respects it and presents it with
innovation. He can confection a simple soup that you’ll still be
talking about when you are sipping coffee in your private sitting room... Read More
Ivy Roost Cottage
Hotel review: This
idyllic place has modern luxury writ large. It is thoroughly
contemporary but retains its 400-year-old charm. It sleeps up to 9
people which make this an ideal retreat for a large family group, or
for several couples who want to enjoy all the tranquillity of the New
Forest... Read More
English heritage review: Swan Upping is an annual ceremonial event and an activity
that has endured since the 12th century. The mute swans on part of the
River Thames are caught, weighed, inspected, ringed, and then released.
Centuries ago these birds were eaten... Read More
Theatre: Memphis in London
London Theatre review: Memphis is a musical and a memorable and striking one. It is set in an
era of segregation, overt racism, poverty, and dreams. The story line
is perennial and simple but with a sting – boy meets girl, boy loses
girl... Read More
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its displays of artefacts and curios. Granted, there are some that feel
many of these objets d’art should be... Read More
Strawberry Hill House –
Former grandeur restored
English heritage review: Strawberry Hill. Even the name conjures visions of
pastoral idylls, perhaps a water-colour of mature trees with the
promise of a gently-flowing river just over that grassy knoll. Well,
the reality isn’t that far from the pastel dream and there is a House
that is at the very centre of the quintessentially English scene... Read More
The Three Faces of
English heritage review: You couldn’t make it up! A story that, on the face of it, sounds quite improbable. The King in the Car Park … indeed a sovereign
in the Social Services Car Park. Richard III, or at least his mortal
remains, were discovered... Read More