Days out from London

I do love London but sometimes it is great to take a day out as there is so much to see in the surrounding towns and countryside. So my blog will bring you days out from time to time. One of my favourite things to do is to visit a National Trust property where you can get a good dose of history and beauty, calmness in the gardens, retail therapy in their shop and tasty cooking in their tea rooms.

This week I went to The Vyne which is about an hour’s drive from central London or 45 minutes by train to Basingstoke and a short cab ride. It’s a fine country house with extensive grounds so we enjoyed exploring the house and taking a decent walk on the woodland trail. 

The house is 16th century, built for Henry V111’s Chamberlain Lord Sandys so the origins of the house are Tudor although many changes and additions were made by subsequent owners. The imposing front opens out onto lawns leading to a tranquil lake and is missing the two Tudor side wings that used to lead down to the water but were lost when the house was bought by the the Chute family in 1653 after the Civil War. The house remained in the Chute family right through until 1956 when it was left to the National Trust. 

Imposing portico with lawns down to the lake

The house has many rooms which date from the Tudor times when Henry V111 used to visit with two of his wives but not at the same time of course! Elizabeth 1st was also a visitor so it has very royal connections. It’s amazing to tread the floors that they trod and see the wooden panelled rooms they lived in so many centuries ago. 

You may be wondering why it is called The Vyne and they story is that in the time of Emperor Probus AD 276-282, the Romans first brought vines to England and it was here at the site of current Vyne that the first ones were planted. 

The furniture and artefacts are from a later period than the Tudor era and include a small cabinet with a ring in it, known as  the Vyne Ring which dates from Roman times and has an inscription on it. The ring is supposed have a curse and you would think no more of it except that JRR Tolkein worked as an adviser on the archaeological dig so knew about the ring – perhaps this got him thinking!

The rear of the house is also an entrance as they changed them over once a road was built and the carriages would make their way with their guest more easily to this side of the house.

The rear, now the front of the house!

Inside the house you get a real feel of a different era and for those of you who watch Downton Abbey on the TV or are fans of period drama, these bells tell the story of how life was very much split between ‘upstairs’ ringing for service and ‘downstairs’ rushing to oblige!

The extensive grounds are 13 acres so have plenty of space for short strolls or walks of several miles through old woodland and a chance to enjoy a bird hide giving views over a large area of wetland so don’t forget your binoculars, as we did!  A 17th century summer house is part of the more formal gardens and you can even see the vines although I’m not sure how old they are, probably not dating from Roman times…..  They grow significant amounts of fruit and vegetables so the food served in the tea house is made from fresh, very local ingredients.

The summer house


Beautiful views in the grounds

The Vyne is well worth a visit for a day out from London and if you want to find out more have a look at the National Trust website.

Bye for now,


Heatwave in London!

The last 2 weeks of June saw a couple of unusual events – a British player doing well at Wimbledon and temperatures hitting the 30s (90s)! To make the most of both I headed off to Wimbledon on Monday to see Andy Murray play on the centre court with the roof closed for the first time and play went on to a very untraditional 10.39 pm. Nails were bitten, eyes were hidden behind hands, Mexicans were waved and in end Andy prevailed and we breathed again. This being England, the fans are planning to queue for 2 days to catch his next encounter!

And still the heat goes on….

It’s Henry V111 year as it’s 500 years since he came to the throne and there are all kinds of events and exhibitions to visit to learn about this monarch who changed the course of our history. We visited Hampton Court and as well as getting lost in the famous maze (but finally found the centre to claim our sticker!) we joined Henry and his courtiers for pre-wedding drinks and a lively chat about his life and thoughts about wives! Henry was married, well one of his 6 weddings, at Hampton Court and there are re-enactments of the preparations and the wedding for visitors to join in and even Tudor dress to wear as you go round. It’s great fun and part of a very entertaining day out in this grand palace.

I was very happy to see Michael Palin in a one off charity show at the O2 arena entitled ’20 years of jokes and 20 years of comedy’, a treat for travellers and Monty Python fans alike. What a lovely man. The O2 is an amazing building designed as a huge tent and features in Casino Royale for those who know their James Bond films.

One of my visitors staying in Notting Hill wanted to try an English pub so we went to The Cow, known for its sea food. The menu offered ‘whelks and winkles’ so we decided to boldly go. I retreated to the Pimms as this went down much easier but, for the brave, this dish is really something to remember! Pimms is the classic English summer drink, refreshing but a little bit stronger than it seems.

One more unusual London experience worth telling you all about are the 30 pianos out on the streets all across London, for anyone to sit at and play, as part of Luke Jerram’s Play Me I’m Yours artwork. I found one in Notting Hill being played rather well by students whose days mission was to give a short rendition on each of the 30 pianos for Cancer Research, a huge effort on such a hot day.

Yes, it’s still hot…