Travel Letter Index

Letter to Doreen from Lavenham and London (Again!)

On Sunday the 8th October we were both involved in supporting the Felixstowe Half Marathon. I had a very pleasant time standing on a bend in a lane which offered me almost three hundred and sixty degrees of view of the surrounding countryside including out to sea and the River Deben with its yachts scurrying about as if they had somewhere to go. The weather was warm and sunny with clear skies and a slight breeze. When not concentrating upon runners and cars and trying to keep the two from colliding I was able to listen to the birds and watch the numerous butterflies.

After a family lunch we set off for Lavenham which is not very far from Felixstowe. We have often promised ourselves that we would stay there and we are very pleased to have finally done so. We arrived at The Angel Hotel just before five pm and set off for a walk around the town. At one point we looked in the pharmacy window and spotted that they advertised ‘audio tours’ of the town and we decided that we would do just that the next morning.

We had mentioned to the barman what we had been doing during the earlier part of the day and when we went down for dinner he brought the chef out to meet us. He had run the half marathon and was in training to run a marathon around Snowdon in North Wales. He was also an excellent chef and we had a superb meal.

The next morning we explored the hotel a little more after Beryl discovered that one of the doors in our room led to a disused attic.


spooky attic


We also went to look at the guests’ sitting room which has a pargetted ceiling dating back to the early 1600s. Pargetting is a kind of embossed patterned plasterwork usually applied to the outside of buildings and we saw quite a lot of it on our tour of the town. We discovered that we had chosen to stay in the oldest Inn in the town there having been some kind of hostelry there since the 1400s. After a substantial breakfast we set off to explore the town.

The audio tour turned out to be an excellent idea in that we learnt a lot about the town that we would not have discovered in such a short time by reading. Once we had adjusted the mp3 players so that we could hear them above the noise of passing cars we set off following the map that came with them. The tour was supposed to last an hour and a half but we kept stopping it to discuss things and spent a while exploring the bookshelves in the church and so we took over two hours.

At one point the guide drew our attention to the long gardens a particular row of cottages had. In these gardens lengths of cloth were stretched out to dry in the sun. They were stretched on a ‘tenter piece’ and were attached by ‘tenter hooks’. In some cases the cloth was dyed with particular colours often blue using woad but sometimes using saffron to create yellow. Sometimes the wool was dyed before being made into cloth – hence the term ‘dyed in the wool’. Our attention was drawn to the grammar school in Barn Street where John Constable the famous painter went to school.

The guide took us down Shilling Street which it claimed ranked with The Shambles in York, Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, and Mermaid Street in Rye. It certainly was picturesque.


picture of shilling street


We thought that generally Lavenham had more interesting buildings than the other places mentioned although we have not yet visited Rye. There were certainly more half timbered buildings than we have seen in other towns. We look forward to staying there again.

On Saturday the 14th of October we went to London for the day. We went with our friend Caro who has a friend who organises a coach trip to London a number of times a year. There were a number of questions this time from the driver of the coach about the arrangements. He was surprised to hear that a lady arranges coach trips (over forty people per trip) for just her friends. Some people have lots of friends!

We dismounted the coach on Park Lane and walked across the city to Dover Street where we visited the Portal Gallery. The gallery has been the one that has shown Beryl Cook’s paintings since she first started and they had the latest exhibition of her work now that she is 80. It was quite a small gallery but was packed with paintings and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. She just makes you want to laugh and certainly seems to have enjoyed life herself.

From there we went to a coffee shop and then on to what was the Duke of Wellington’s House in London. It is a house I have wanted to visit for many years. Almost every time we have been through London by road we have driven past it. It was definitely worth the visit. There are many paintings by famous artists and a stunning amount of china and silverware on display. As it was an English Heritage property we were able to have the audio tour guide as well and so we were given lots of information. I really like audio guides but we also bought the guide book so that we can have another look later.

We felt that we had had enough by about 2.30 and so left there and walked across London to Wigmore Street where we had lunch in a restaurant we had used before and liked. After a long slow lunch we walked around the corner to Manchester Square and visited the Wallace Collection again.

This is a gallery we have visited a number of times before. There is so much there that we would never tire of visiting it. We just looked at a few paintings in detail and then decided that we would move on to something else. From there we went back to Oxford Street and had a wander around Marks and Spencers. Unusually for us we didn’t buy anything! By about five o’clock we were ready for a sit down so we walked back to Park Lane and went in to the Marriot Hotel bar and had a glass of white wine each. It was very good wine and the toilets are excellent with very good soap and individual cotton towels. So after a luxurious sit down and a wash we were ready for the three hour coach journey back to Derby. There were a long list of things we wanted to do but did not manage to fit in and so I expect we will be going back to London again soon.

Anyway, we hope you have enjoyed our trips with us.