London Diary – Beatles, Mayflower, Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall

Aug 23-26, 2019

Wow, it was almost a perfect holiday in Plymouth, Devon and neighboring places in Cornwall. The area is peppered with scenic spots and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Plymouth’s got some very impressive historic landmark, Francis Drake, Captain Cook, Charles Darwin, and the Mayflower all set sail from its harbors, Arthur Donan Doyle lived in a building on the Hoe, and a spot on the Hoe where Beatles took a famous group photo is now marked with 4 metal plates for fans to create their own Beatles-esque moment. While the rest of the city still looks sluggish, the waterfront area has been done up very nicely. And OMG, I loved the fresh local seafood, offered at reasonable price too.

Beautiful Saltram House with lovely garden and ground made a relaxing day out. It has connection with Jane Austen’s older brother Henry and it is said that Jane herself had corresponded with Lady Morley about Emma. And yes, it’s what led me to the discovery of this area :o) It is also the filming location for 1995 Sense and Sensibility as Norland. It is now a National Trust property.

Cotehele is a breathtaking Tudor Mansion in Calstock, Cornwall. It seems to have stand still in time and simply is evocatively beautiful. It also comes with an impressive collection of weaponries and beautiful tapestries. The house is located on a hill within view of Calstock Valley. The extensive estate ground is situated on the bank of River Tamar and includes some advantageous viewpoints, Prospect Tower for sweeping country sight and Calstock Lookout for exhilarating view of Calstock Valley and Viaduct. The estate also includes a mill, the largest mill complex I’ve seen. We also discovered that coincidentally Cotehele, now a National Turst property, used to be owned by Edgcumbe family, same family that also owned Edgcumbe House, which is next on my list. Cotehele is the most fascinating house and ground I’ve visited!

The story of Edgcumbe family and Mount Edgcumbe House and Park is one that leaves you feeling awed, and a twinge of sadness. The Edgcumbes owned the land and house at Cotehele and Mount Edgcumbe since around 1353. In the Victorian era, the house become a grand castle and the family called Queen Victoria and Prince Albert their friends. The family unfortunately was dealt a double tragedy during WWII, its heir and future 6th Earl of Edgecumbe was killed in the war and the house was bombed to rabbles. With no other direct male heir, the estate passed to a second cousin in 1947. The 6th earl of Edgcumbe faced dual jeopardy, a ruined house and death duties. The brave soul soldiered on and embarked on restoring the house, applying for government funding and negotiating deals to avoid the death penalty. The house was restored based on its Tudor form, much smaller than it was before the bombing. It was nevertheless finally finished in 1974 and lived in by his family for a number of years. Eventually the 8th Earl relinquished the ownership and it is now jointly owned by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall.

Edgcumbe House and Park occupy north east corner of Cremyl Peninsular in Cornwall, which sits on the south bank of river Tamar, opposite to Plymouth’s Royal William Yard north of the river.  The gardens and views along the riverside are delightful. The house is located on a hill with delightful views of the great lawn sloping down towards River Tamar and Plymouth across the river.

P.S. There is a magnificent view point at B3247/Marker Lane.

London Diary – Box Hill inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma

Aug 17, 2019

An excursion to Box Hill, Surrey, inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, turned out wonderfully well. Despite the cloudy and rainy forecast, weather was lovely all the way through. One can drive up but we took the steep climb from Burford Meadow and Stepping Stones. Views along the way are delightful and the most spectacular is from Solomon’s Monument. P.S. P8 is Juniper Hall seen from Box Hill. P9 is Burford Bridge Hotel at the foot of Box Hill and it is said that Jane Austen stayed there. P10 is a Blue Plaque found at Westhumble Village nearby. It shows Fanny Burney, whose novels were read and enjoyed by Jane Austen, once lived in the village.

London Diary – St Albans

Aug 10, 2019

A lovely day out in St Albans with friends Amanda and Ian. St Albans is an old town rich in history. We did the ‘A Roman City Revealed’ tour, very interesting. Its grand Cathedral features an interesting talk in the choir by a “Benedictine Monk”, telling story of days when they did 8 prayers a day including 2 hours in the middle of the night and drinking up to 8 pints of beer a day.

London Diary – Polesden Lacey

Aug 3, 2019

Polesden Lacey in Surrey is beautiful inside and out, boasting an amazing collection of paintings and Chinese china from the Qing dynasty, a lovely garden and a great lawn in front of the house, looking out to the lovely woodland and valley. Visitors were enjoying themselves on the lawn, relaxing and having picnics. The story of Maggie Graville, last owner of the house, is one of the most interesting. Her father made his wealth from brewing beer, and married her mother, who was an illiterate servant girl, when Maggie was 21. She as the only child inherited huge wealth from her father and no expense was spared in fixing up Polesden Lacey to be fit for a king. Edward VII was her friend and often stayed at Polesden Lacey. George V was not a fan of her father and didn’t favor her at first until she hinted she might give Polesden Lacey to Prince Bertie. Bertie and his bride spent their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey. When Maggie died in 1942, she however did not give Bertie the house but gave it to National Trust instead. She did leave the royal family all her jewelries, a whole case of 40 some pieces of valuable jewelries. Among others, an all diamond tiara was seen on the queen mother Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess Eugenie.

London Diary – Opera at Waterperry House

Jul 27, 2019

Along with a group of friends, we enjoyed a brilliant operatic rendition of Mansfield Park at the ballroom of Waterperry House. A stroll in the beautiful garden and a picnic before performance only enhanced the pleasure.

London Diary –Independence Day Picnic

Jun 30, 2019 Some say Picnic is an English invention. I can believe that. Temperate summer climate makes outdoor activities an absolute delight. Sunday Jun 30 was just such a perfect day for DAUK’s annual Independence Day Picnic at Portman Square Garden.

London Diary – Jane Austen Regency Week in Hampshire

June, 2019

Jane Austen Regency Week in Hampshire this year runs from June 22nd to 30th. Opening weekend featured Festival Fair on Alton’s High Street, Regency Ball at Alton Assembly Room, a talk by Caroline Knight, and afternoon picnic at Chawton House which included a reading by Susannah Harker, aka Jane Bennett of BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice, and other entertainment. It is one of the best Jane Austen experience we’ve had. At Chawton, beauty of a quintessential English village was at full display and the presence of Jane Austen’s world was wonderfully palpable. P.S. A visit to the area is not complete without a stop at Steventon. First two photos are Steventon Church and the field where the former vicarage used to stand.