16 September 2012

(2) UK - Rutland County - Rocks by Rail and Barnsdale Gardens

Rutland County is the smallest county in England and this was one of the reasons we chose it for our annual holiday this year.
Air-fares have risen lately and we struggled to find a reasonable fare until it was suggested we try SkyScanner which provided a fairly decent price for a British Airways ticket. The time came round fairly quickly and there we were climbing aboard, all set for Heathrow direct from Cape Town. The plane was very full - the staff coped with smiles on their faces. Dinner time came around and the usual "Chicken or Beef" request echoed down the plane. I chose chicken and hungrily opened my pack only to find--------a full English Breakfast!!!! This must surely be a first - English Breakfast for dinner! I decided to eat rather than await the busy staff's return and they were truly shocked when I told them my sorry tale. The expressions on their faces was priceless! Having filled my hunger pains, I was not upset at all but they did offer me more food. Mistakes do happen and this one was so unusual (I hope!) that I just could not complain, nor did I want to. So next time you fly BA remind them not to give you breakfast instead!

The wait for our rental car was long but again, the staff were very pleasant and helpful. The Tom-Tom did not make any mistakes and after a very boring drive on the highway, we located Barnsdale Country Club. With lovely views over Rutland Water it should turn out to be a peaceful and interesting time.

We drove into Oakham Village where many locals were out and about. We popped into a tiny local pub for quick bite to eat.This seems a well-frequented little pub with good pub meals at reasonable prices (for us South African)

Finding Tesco's was a challenge as the sign only faces one way and we were driving from the opposite way. But find it we did and this store will be frequented during our stay here. The variety of prepared meals appears to be much vaster than we get in Cape Town so it will be easier to self-cater at reasonable cost and still have a variety of meals in the village.
Armed with our groceries we headed back to Barnsdale to check in and just about gave the cleaning lady heart-failure as she was still in the unit! So late in the day and she still had 5 units to clean she told us. Poor lady!
After a long flight with no sleep to speak of, we fell into bed rather exhausted - even the wedding racket from the building behind us, did not keep us awake!
Roll on tomorrow when we can start exploring!

It dawned cloudy today - surprise? So I donned my yellow T-Shirt hoping that the sun would take the hint and come out with guns blazing! As you can guess I am the eternal optimist! Our first stop was at Rocks by Rail in Cottesmore - a living Ironstone Museum. Run entirely by volunteers who are very passionate about the part they are playing in this restoration, it was a very interesting experience. The loco drives up to the quarry where the digger is waiting to scoop up the ironstone into the waiting rail trucks. The steam loco is a short ride down the track where it passes the old disused Oakham Canal. The volunteers have opened up a very tiny piece of canal just to show that there was once a canal in the area! The workshop is open for viewing and the projects of restoration are ongoing. Truly fascinating stuff if you are interested in rail and quarry history. With over 20 steam and diesel locos in the process of being restored, it's paradise for enthusiasts. A path has been cleared adjoining the tracks as a nature walk with viewing spots for photographers. Eventually, they hope to have a platform for embarking so one could ride down and walk up or visa versa. The Sundew cafe, which is named after the crane that was used in the quarry, offers free tea or coffee and sandwiches can be bought. All in all, a pleasant morning out. View their web site www.rocks-by-rail.org for further info.

By now we were nearing lunch time so off we set to the Finch's Arms hoping for a pint and a hearty pub lunch. The barman showed us a choice of 2 tables and we ordered our pints. When James requested a menu, we were suddenly told that they were fully booked and could not even give us a sandwich!!!!!! It would have been nice had they told us that in the first place. So we drank our beers rather grumpily and left. As this is also the start of a walk around Rutland Water, we were going to that after lunch. As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men..........!

Barnsdale Gardens were next on our list as we could have a sandwich before exploring the gardens. The sun had sort of come out by this time so it seemed a good omen for a wander amongst the 38 gardens laid out in the 8 acre site. But first to calm the tummy rumbles so we ordered sandwiches in the on-site coffee shop. Big mistake! I have never had such an insipid egg mayonnaise in my entire life - which upset me, as I love egg sandwiches. Is this the British palette's style?

However, the gardens are certainly worth a visit and various little corners have been laid out such as Tranquil Garden, Woodland Walk, A Cottage Garden, Town Paradise Garden, Apple Arch, and best of all, the Rose Garden. The smell of roses pervades the gardens and I would love to bottle the smell as our modern day roses bought in SA have no smell at all. Geoff Hamilton was a passionate horticulturalist and found the Barnsdale site in 1983 where he designed many different gardens which appeared on BBC gardening programmes.

A must visit if you are in the area and love gardens/gardening.

A short walk back at Barnsdale gave us some fast exercise before heading back to our unit to plan tomorrow's trips.


© Judelle Drake

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