The weather was glorious, the gardens looked great and, best of all, the place was practically deserted.
Actually, even better than that, if you are a member of the Historic Houses Association (HHA), you get in for nothing!
Click the Read more for an image gallery. The skies look very saturated in the photos, probably because I was using a polarising filter, but they were actually very blue anyway.
We've never actually been inside the house, but we have been told off by an official for standing at the back of the place to have this photo taken. There was a small notice, we discovered afterwards, saying Private, but we hadn't seen it. So naughty!
The cafe's OK and quite reasonable, just don't go expecting a 7-course banquet. We went on a Saturday and there was a wedding on, which meant that a bit of the place was roped off. Whatever. We went for the gardens really, and they are fab.
Saw a few bands in May/June, all at the Junction in Cambridge. Maximo Park played songs from their brilliant new albun Risk To Exist plus favourites from their huge back catalogue. Paul Smith was on excellent form. We saw them in Doncaster a few years back but this was a much better gig.
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As always,Twin Atlantic were loud and lively. I was fairly close to the mosh pit, taking photos. It was a vision of hell, basically. At one point, Sam McTrusty leapt into the audience and sang as he was carried around by the crowd - at one pointI was nearly garotted by his mic cable. It's the third time we've seen them. Unapologetically full-on Scottish rock.
Talking of Scotland, Justin Currie wowsed a rather sparse crowd with numbers from his new album This Is My Kingdom Now, in my opinion one of his best for a while. Needless to say he also played a goodly number of classic Del Amitri songs. Lost count of the number of times we've seen him perform, and we're going again to see him in Nottingham in October!
You can really see the garden starting to develop in these pictures.
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The border hedge was planted in 2002, when the builders had finished the KS2 extension. The boundary of the garden had to be changed and we lost some ground on the south side but gained some on the north side. We also lost one of the two hillocks. I went with Mrs Draper to Littleport to collect the trees. She had a trailer and we dug up as many trees as would fit - all free. They had been bought for some millenium project that never happened. The only problem was it was July, not ideal for tree planting.. Consequently, I spent half the summer holiday watering the new plants, but it worked, as you can see. Only the oaks died, and that was because I had to cut off their tap root to get then out of the nursery bed.
I have also included some photos from Nature Club, which ran in its original form (i.e. free, just me running it) from 1998 to about 2010.
This was when it all began. I drew up a plan which went to governors, and the chair at the time, Peter Wickham, simply said go ahead. That was it. Who'd have thought that 20 years later we'd end up where we are now? If you were around at that time take a look at the photos and see if you can spot yourself.
The beds were laid out, the fence was put up and the pond was made. Notice it is before the KS2 extension was built. Basically, the garden still the same layout today.
Top helpers back then were the Browning, Hunt and Knott families, but there were many others who gave their time to get the project off the ground. The school owes them.
Perhaps some of those people, including the children who are now adults of course, will come along to the 25 years celebration this summer and see what their handiwork has turned into. I hope so,anyway.
The Stirling Smith is a museum and art gallery in the town of Stirling (durr, where else?).
Like many local museurms it is a treasure trove of curios and unusual artefacts, mostly relating to the hitory of the town. Well worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood.
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More unusual, perhaps, is the fact that the museum has adopted a cat, Oswald. He is black and white and is quite a character. We kept an eye out for him during our visit but with no success. Then on our way out of the building, who should we bump into? The curator was kind enough to scoop up Oswald (who looked more interested in getting inside for a spot of lunch, no doubt, than in talking to us) and letting us pet him.
So, as a consequence, the Stirling Smith gets a 5 star rating from me, anyway!