Travel Letter Index

Letter to Doreen from Laycock

Dear Mum
The journey from Gosport to Lyndhurst went very quickly and so we were soon into the New Forest with our eyes open for the signs of Hotels I had looked up on the internet. The first one we came across was Clareys at Brockenhurst. Although the hotel looked good from the outside the surroundings were not particularly notable. We travelled on towards the coast because I wanted to look at Hurst Castle. It featured in a prominent way in Rutherford’s novel, ‘The Forest’ and I wanted to see what it looked like because it has distinctive architectural features. The closest you can drive to it is a place called Keyhaven which also features in the novel. However, when I got out of the car at Keyhaven quayside the rain was lashing at near gale force and it was bitterly cold – save it for another day I thought.

We went on towards Christchurch and actually drove right past the hotel we were looking for. The traffic in Christchurch was at a standstill and so we decided to park near the civic offices rather than join in. From there we noticed a walkway that took us beside the water and over a couple of bridges right into the centre. It was a really pleasant walk with lots of things of interest to look at. The people at the Tourist Information Office were very helpful and we came out with maps and guides and a very clear description of how to get to the hotel called The Avonmouth.

You can see from the brochure how proud they are of the view they have and this photograph is a slight twist on their version. We had lunch in the beautifully furnished lounge which is open to the dining area. It was quite busy and obviously ‘respectable’. The service was excellent and the food was superb. The brochure boasts of the quality of their individual attention and we certainly saw evidence of that.

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We asked about rooms and how many steps there were to get to them. If you chose a room in the main building there are six steps but if you chose an ‘Orchard’ room there are just three and the car can be parked just near the door at the back of the rooms.

As you can see from the photograph each room has its own patio and looks out over the gardens and across the bay as in the next photograph.

Although the ‘gardens’ are not what you would call a garden they are pleasant and sheltered.

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We think you would like one of the Orchard rooms but see what you think and let us know what your choice is.

They offer Bed and Breakfast and Dinner Bed and Breakfast but we thought we would book just for the breakfasts because although the food in the hotel is very good we may want either not to eat or to eat elsewhere. There seemed to be lots of choice in Christchurch.

We have a long list of places to go and things to do but the lady who advised us also pointed out a number of places to go in the car where it is good just to sit and look at the view. Bucklers Hard and Exbury are also not far away. If you have a chat with Kath about it she will have a long list of other places to go as well no doubt.

We left the hotel after two o’clock and took minor roads until we reached Wimbourne Minster. The plan was to stay on the A350 until we reached Laycock but we drove past Kingston Lacey and couldn’t resist going in. We are very glad we did. Not only is the house beautiful but it is stuffed full of furniture and more paintings per square inch than you see in most country houses. Like Calke it came to the National Trust in its entirety and so not only are all the artefacts there but also all of the records of them as well.

We rushed our visit really, although we did move at the same pace as most people through the house. We did not visit the gardens though because the time had crept round to gone four o’clock and we wanted to walk round Laycock in daylight.

We arrived in Laycock just before 6 pm to find children with clip boards walking around looking at plastic characters from TV and children's stories in gardens, above doorways and tied to chimneys….most incongruous. If one of the previous inhabitants of the town a few hundred years ago had come back they would have thought we had been invaded by Planet Tellytubby – or would they?

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We knew our way to where we were staying and were very pleased with our accommodation. We asked about places to eat and the lady recommended the only restaurant and a couple of the pubs. We looked at the restaurant menu and liked what was on offer. It was 6.30 and we would have been happy to eat then. We went in and received a look of shock when we asked for a table. “Have you booked?”…no we had not…after a consultation we were told they might squeeze us in but they did not open until 7.

We walked around the village and had an aperitif in one of the pubs. When we returned at 7.10 we were offered a choice of places to sit. There was one other person dining there sitting at a table next to a huge log fire reading a book whilst eating his meal. There were seven other tables in the two rooms which could have accommodated between two and eight people. They finished serving at 9 pm we overheard and when we left at 8.20 there were eight other people in the entire place. Oh the mad rush of village life!

The food was good though: I had crab soup followed by Turbot in a tarragon hollandaise and Beryl had haddock fish cakes. Some people would have thought what a wonderful, romantic place to eat. It was a tiny cottagey place with roaring fires, beams, tiny windows and candle light. The waitress came and drew the curtains before light had gone from the sky and put more logs on the fire. Then a dog appeared in the other room and two cats meowed their way around the tables. We found that quite offensive. I quoted to Beryl an article I had read recently about a currently very popular restaurant designer who has done many of the top places in London and New York whose mother gave him his most important piece of design advice which was “Make sure that people can see the food they are eating.” I know I don’t like pokey little rooms and fiddly little windows but I had my doubts about log fires at that point as well. We couldn’t wait to leave the place and I think the waitresses thought there was something wrong because of the speed with which we left.

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Next morning I was up early roaming around the village with my camera. I didn’t take any particularly good photographs but I am beginning to get more used to my new camera and the big lens I bought recently. This is a view of the Abbey as the sun rose.


On my way to the Abbey I saw a Tawny Owl fly across the road with what looked like a cotton serviette in its mouth. Just finished his meal I wondered or perhaps a new undersheet for the nursery. As I walked back from the Abbey I had the sun behind me and this is what one of the street corners looked like.

I mentioned to Beryl that I thought I heard swallows last evening. Well, this morning I saw them but was not quick enough to photograph them. Swallows on the 7th of April. Browning would have been put out.

We were served a huge breakfast in a quite stunning room in the pottery. Big floor area, big windows and lots of light. A big log fire as well although it seemed a little more welcome in the chill of the morning.

We travelled home on the breakfast and comfortably lasted until our evening meal. We stopped off at Cirencester for look around and again at Hinkley after having really enjoyed travelling on The Fosse Way. We saw lots of lambs in the fields and at various times five Kestrels and one bird of prey we could not identify.

When we reached home we found that the electricity was off and had been since 4a.m.. We also had a cistern overflowing and a cherished Pieris blown over. Matters became worse when I discovered a delivery of over one hundred plants that urgently needed potting on.

So we faced a cold and miserable evening with too many things to do and none of them were what we had expected. A change of plan was called for!

Guess what we did? You’ve got it! We pulled the curtains, lit some candles and a roaring log fire. I was very grateful to sit near it until bed time.

How can I get to my age and still have to learn not to make quick judgements and not to appreciate the importance of items from our history? I had spent much of the last two days setting out to pursue and observe historical places and artefacts and now I had to acknowledge my gratitude for the humble log fire!

As usual for us just two days seemed like a long holiday!

 

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