Off we set armed with our friendly Tom-Tom. This cheerful British voice keeps us on the curvy, narrow roads of British countryside." Kept left at the round-a-bout, then third exit, or in 300 yards, keep right on the round-a-bout and take the 4th exit or turn around!! Today we had a few "turn around" instructions but more of that later.
As we reached Rockingham fairly early we ventured into Corby to try and find a supermarket. After driving through much of the town, we discovered a huge ASDA. What fun and what a huge variety of goods. With eyes out on stalks, we wandered the aisles and were wishing that Raymond Ackerman's offspring would take some tips and increase the variety in the Pick & Pay stores back home. Perhaps the South Africans are better cooks with more time on their hands but I just loved all the prepared foods available!
Rockingham Castle - what a wonderful outing. It is a must see if you are in the area during the summer months as it is only open Tuesdays and Sundays. Go early when the gates open so that you can wander the amazing rose garden , see the 400 year yr old Yew Hedge, shaped to resemble elephants (I think a couple of whiskeys are required to see the resemblance!)and the New Garden. Once inside the castle, you can climb the very steep and narrow stairway to the top for glorious views across 5 counties on a clear day.
This castle has only been owned by 2 families and is still owned by the Watson family (Denise, where did you go wrong??) This current family have 2 girls of 17 and 15 and a son of nearly 12 (2012) The father works at a bank in London - leaves home at 6.00 am to go to London by train, returning at 19.00 every night. A long day in anybody's book.
The gardens are maintained by 2 or 3 gardeners and one was mowing the vast lawns when we arrived. The roses were still good and the various smells simply divine. The new garden is 3 years old and a sight to behold - the aim is to have small sections of garden with various flowers. The Rose garden has the same shape and size as the original Castle Keep which no longer exists.
The village of Rockingham was moved from it's original position to the current site below the castle. This village is also owned by the Watsons and the original purchase price of 350 pounds included farm land which has since been sold off or rented out. There are currently no houses for rent in the village and one can understand why - it is by far the cutest village we have seen so far.
Charles Dickens was a family friend and often stayed overnight - he was supposed to have seen a lady ghost at the end of the Yew Hedge - perhaps he also saw the elephants?
The interior of the castle is amazing - the kitchen filled with copper pots seemed a bright and cheery place to work - at least it would have been warm in the olden days! The Long Room was specifically meant for the ladies to take their exercise, has stunning views over the countryside and my gran, who always paced up and down, would have loved it! The library - magnificent. The family quarters are in a separate wing - however, they do use the castle as their home when it is not open to the public. What a way to live in this modern day and age - quite mind-boggling!
The guides were excellent so a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hours.
Rockingham remained my favourite Castle/Stately Home - it has a magical air to it and the gardens are simply gorgeous. I am sure this is a much loved home and not just a commercial venture.
We hope the family will treasure their wonderful home for many more generations to come.
The Seaton Viaduct was eventually found and we took a stroll down a footpath in the icy wind to view this huge structure of 82 arches. It just goes on and on and we could not see the entire length all at once. I wished for a train to make this a special experience as we trudged in the artic wind! Suddenly, James shouted - RUN - there is a train coming! We were not in the best spot at that stage but watching this train was something special - 2 engines and 36 trucks going past - they seemed to go on forever. An epic feat of engineering for the men who built this amazing structure.