England, 1982

Photos © Ruud Leeuw Photos © Ruud Leeuw



The UK being one of our favourite vacation destinations, we put the car on the carferry and crossed the Channel on the Olau ferry Vlissingen ('Flushing') - Sheerness. Over the years we travelled this route at least a dozen times but unfortunately it was closed down at some point during the 1990s.
We never actually explored Sheerness, nor the Isle of Sheppey, but it was nice to read about its Dutch link in history: 'Sheerness was the focus of an attack by the Dutch navy in June 1667, when 72 hostile ships compelled the little "sandspit fort" there to surrender and landed a force which for a short while occupied the town. Samuel Pepys at Gravesend remarked in his diary "we do plainly at this time hear the guns play" and in fear departed to Brampton in Huntingdonshire.' [Wikipedia]

We enjoyed camping at the socalled 'Trax Campsites', racecourses offering limited facilities but there were toilettes and soft grassy land to pitch the tent. Mornings offered horses and jockeys making their way for some early exercise rides.

We love to see those early Norman churches across the landscape, often open for a quick look inside.


Quiet another 'religion'.. During the 1970s and early 1980s I was into military aviation spotting. My first visit to the UK for aircraft was in 1975, travelling on bikes my friend Paul and me toured East Anglia for a unique spotting trip, visiting a good selection of air bases. When I got my driver's license a car proofed to be an easier transport for such trips.
Vacation in the late 1980s, and even during the 1990s, had remnants of military aircraft spotting.
Here, at Mildenhall ('the Hall') I encountered the SR-71 Backbird. For almost two hours I had been hiding in farmland, awaiting the SR-71 to return to its hangar after some engine testrunning. The Blackbird was a very secret spy-plane in those days and was rarely seen during the day. I was absolutely thrilled!

Funny coincidence, while compiling this page in July 2009 I have a CD playing, the latest by Steve Forbert, and he opens with 'Blackbird Tune'!.

England A prearranged base visit to RAF Alconbury failed to materialize as the PRO Officer appeared to be sick that day. So we did the next best thing and found a spot near the runway. To get to this spot we had to undertake a long walk through the field, but we encountered no angry farmers! When the aircraft (RF-4C Phantoms) did not fly we passed the time reading and enjoying the sunshine (we kept low here, not to avoid spotting by the base security, but because a fierce wind was blowing).

The Eleanor Cross at Geddington. These Eleanor crosses were 12 lavishly decorated stone monuments, of which three survive intact, in a line down part of the east of England. King Edward I had the crosses erected between 1291 and 1294 in memory of his wife Eleanor of Castile, marking the nightly resting-places along the route taken by her body as it was taken to London.
Upon her death in 1290 at Harby, near the city of Lincoln, the body of Queen Eleanor was carried to the Gilbertine priory of St. Catherine, Lincoln in the south of Lincoln, where she was embalmed. Her viscera were sent for burial in the Angel Choir of Lincoln Cathedral, where they still rest. Her body was then sent to London, taking 12 days to reach Westminster Abbey. The crosses were erected at the places where her funeral procession stopped overnight. [Wikipedia]


During this trip we again visited several castles and manor houses, something we enjoy doing tremendously.

This is Castle Ashby and though we saw no visitor facilities we boldly looked around on the grounds.


The grounds of Castle Ashby are extensive. When we left, our route kept us following the perimeter. We passed this gate and I decided to stop for a photo for it clearly shows the grounds extending beyond the horizon!

The rolling landscape of England we like so much.


We arrived Althrop, home of Count & Countess Spencer, parents of Lady Diana.
This vast estate has been the home of the Spencer's for the past 500 years. Unfortunately the visiting hours to the house were limited to the afternoon and we could not await that.
The flag was in top to celebrate the first year anniversary of Prince Charles being married to 'Lady Di'.

Another fine manor house we could not visit: Compton Wynyates, a castle in Tudor style.
Apparently the owners no longer needed the funding by visitors and the gates carried signs it had been closed to the public. The guidebook we carried was obviously not up to date to this recent development.
But we did notice a sign directing us to Broughton Castle, so we headed there.

Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire.
Broughton Castle was built by Sir John de Broughton in 1300 at this peaceful location where the confluence of three streams created a natural site for a moated manor. The house was sold in 1377 to William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and one of the most powerful men in medieval England. A subsequent Wykeham married into the Fiennes family, in whose hands the castle still rests.
The original house, of which much still remains, was remodeled extensively in 1554 and again in the 17th and 19th centuries. The original house was crenellated (battlements were added) by Sir Thomas Wykeham in 1406. Beginning in 1550 Richard Fiennes transformed the medieval manor into the Tudor house that you see today. Sir Richard added the west wing, with the Great Parlour and the Oak Room. It was left to Sir Richard's son, also named Richard, to complete the Great Parlour with the addition of the quite wonderful plaster ceiling.
The great drama in the history of Broughton Castle was to follow in the 17th century. Sir William Fiennes was one of the leading activists against Charles I. He allowed Broughton to be used as a meeting place for those plotting against the king, and later raised troops to fight against the king at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. The battle was lost, and Royalist troops later besieged the castle, overcoming the defenders and occupying the castle for a time.
Broughton fell into decay in the 19th century, but was eventually rescued from a descent into decrepitude by Frederick Fiennes, 16th Lord Saye and Sele, who brought in prominent Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott to rescue Broughton.
Moviegoers will recognize Broughton Castle from the blockbuster film Shakespeare in Love (1998). It was also featured in The Madness of King George (1994), Three Men and a Little Lady (1990), and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982).
[Source: www.britainexpress.com]

The lovely gardens of Broughton Castle.

Stonehenge, obviously!
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north of Salisbury.
New archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project indicates that Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. The dating of cremated remains found on the site shows that burials took place there as early as 3000 BC, when the first ditches were being constructed around the monument. Burials continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years. [Wikipedia]

Wardour Castle
Old Wardour Castle

Beautifully sited beside a lake, Old Wardour Castle was built in the late 14th century by John Lord Lovel as a lightly fortified but showy and luxurious residence. A hexagonal tower house ranged round a central courtyard, its form is very unusual in England.
Substantially updated by the staunchly Roman Catholic Arundell family after c.1570, the castle saw much fighting during the Civil War. In 1643 the 60 year old Lady Arundell was forced to surrender it to Parliament. But the new garrison was almost immediately besieged in turn by Royalist forces led by her son. After an eventful 10 months of bombardment and undermining, they finally capitulated in March 1644.
The badly damaged castle became a romantic ruin, and was incorporated in the 18th century into the landscaped grounds of Lord Arundell's New Wardour House (not managed by English Heritage, no public access). The castle's setting in a Registered Landscape enhances the significance of this hidden jewel.
Part of the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves,was filmed here. [Source: www.english-heritage.org.uk]

the End



Created 18-Jul-2009,
Updated 25-Jul-2009