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Mildew82

Mildew82

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Yikes! It's been a while. A new job role has taken up most of my time recently but my reviewing days are back...

Reviews written

since 25/03/2010

271

Red Lion House, Hartington 24/07/2017

Nice location, but...

Red Lion House, Hartington For a short break in Derbyshire we opted for a cottage, the Red Lion House, in the small village of Hartington, near Bakewell and Buxton for some geographical orientation. Booking through cottages.com, it was their usual easy process, selecting the date and number of people and getting the confirmation through with property details practically straight away - simple and stress free. The price for 3 people and 3 nights did seem a bit high (£624 in total, so £208 per person), but price comparisons suggested most properties with the specs we wanted were similar, and since it was during June, so peak time, I guess the price could be considered reasonable by some, but not me. Getting There You are advised to contact the property manager at least 48 hours before arrival to get details on how to enter the house and to provide your expected arrival time (any time after 3pm) so they can meet you. The website details suggest there is parking on site for two cars – which is true, but a tad tricky requiring much manoeuvring in little space, so street parking is a bit easier, if a lottery on availability. Using the postcode to get you there via SatNav is a disaster. The nearest motorways are the M6 and the M1 and it is quite a drive from both so I would recommend some use of SatNav or have a map reader next to you. We ended up driving along one way roads and an extremely thin dirt road through a field before arriving at the property manager’s house instead of our accommodation. The moral ...

Poole's Cavern, Buxton 15/07/2017

Enter Poole's Cavern thankfully not as a hostage of robber Poole

Poole's Cavern, Buxton Caves are part eerie / part peaceful places and you’d be forgiven in thinking if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Personally, I find caves fascinating as they always seem to have different origin stories and histories, and Poole’s Cavern in Buxton, Derbyshire is no different, so if you are a fan of caves and in the area, it is well worth a visit. These caves are a mere 2 million years old, formed by the River Wye cutting through the rock as it was finding its path in life, making only a small appearance now in Poole’s Cavern before disappearing underground and reappearing some 400 metres away. One thing that is particularly interesting is due to mining practices in the past, waste from lime-burning was dumped above the cavern, so the water filtering through picked up all that waste material and produced very speedy stalactites that grow up to 1cm a year. Epic. Admin How to Get There Address: Poole's Cavern Visitor Centre, Green Lane, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9DH Phone: 01298 26978 Email: info@poolescavern.co.uk The caves are located very close to the centre of Buxton and are very easy to follow with the brown signs which is advised over Satnav if you’re driving as the postcode may lead you astray. The car park is reasonably sized and costs £2 for 4 hours and £3 for the whole day. If you come in by train to Buxton it is a 20-minute walk, but no bus service direct from there so a taxi might be the best option if you don’t fancy the walk. There are however two buses ...

Chatsworth House, Bakewell 12/07/2017

Chatsworth - worth every penny

Chatsworth House, Bakewell The Chatsworth Estate can be dated back to the 11th Century in the time of Edward the Confessor, but the house didn’t appear until the 15th Century when the Leche family acquired it to extend their property nearby and first built the house. Then, it changed hands for the final time in 1549 to the Cavendishes (of the House of Cavendish fame, sporting a whole line of aristocrats culminating in the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire who still reside there) and it has remained in the family for 16 generations, with the real interest coming from the changes each generation has enacted on the estate reflecting different period styles and fads. Admin Getting There Address: Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP If driving you are better off using the postcode DE45 1PN for satnav though, or hopefully it will just be an available attraction. It’s not too close to any motorway (M1 being the closest at 16 miles away) but it is sign posted quite well whether you come off at J29 or take the A6. You enter the Chatsworth Estate and pass the farm shop, a gym and swimming pool before you find the turning for the house. There is a long driveway up to the main house with cattle grids, but be prepared, you will have to pay £4 to use the car park unless you cunningly booked your tickets online in which case it is free (there is a £3 car park available in Calton Lees, with both car parks open until 7pm). Blue badge holders can park for free, but for all others, you will have to pay ...

Hanbury Hall & Gardens, Birmingham 14/11/2016

A slice of 18th Century history with its very own Snob's Tunnel

Hanbury Hall & Gardens, Birmingham Picture the scene. A National Trust property stands before you consisting of an historical house and gardens. You think to yourself, ah the old house and gardens combo, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But you know what, they always have their own charm, history and unique twists that make them worth the visit and Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire is no exception. Hanbury Estate resides in the old Royal Forest of Feckenham which lost its royal status in 1629 allowing ordinary families to swoop in and buy up the land, which the Vernon family did. The first house appeared in 1701 commissioned by lawyer Thomas Vernon, believed to be designed by William Rudhall with some amazing paintings by Sir John Thornhill inside which can be seen in their full glory having been recently restored. But the unique twist to this property comes from learning about the Vernon family themselves with the odd scandal to get the grapevine twitching. Admin How to Get there Address: School Road, Hanbury, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, WR9 7EA The nearest train station is Droitwich Spa which is still a good 4 miles away. By bus you will want the Wychbold stop on the Worcester to Birmingham route which is still 2 miles away. Alas, as usual, that makes driving the best option (where thankfully there is a decently sized free car park 150 yards away from the house entrance) and you’ll probably come in off the M5 J5 along the A38 or along the B4090. Whilst the property was pretty easy to find, picking up ...

Spetchley Park Gardens, Spetchley 23/10/2016

History and relaxation in one place

Spetchley Park Gardens, Spetchley If you happen to find yourself in Worcestershire then one place I’d thoroughly recommend spending a peaceful and relaxing couple of hours is Spetchley Park Gardens. We came across it named in connection with Edward Elgar, and after spending the greater part of the morning in Worcester, given its proximity of only being about a 15-minute drive away, we thought we’d pop in and see what all the fuss was about (which turned out to be a great piece of decision making). On the grounds there used to be a Tudor mansion (home to the Lyttleton family) and moat (a section still remains), but a crazed bunch of Scottish Presbyterian Royalists turned arsonists put paid to that. In 1605 the wealthy wool merchant and banker Rowland Berkeley bought the estate from the Sheldon family and it has remained in the Berkeley family ever since. The rather stunning Georgian house which you can look at (but not enter) today was designed by John Tasker and built in 1811 but the real attraction is the 30 acres of historic gardens which you can roam about in to your heart’s content. Admin Getting There Address: Spetchley, Worcester, WR5 1RS Tel: 01905 345106 Email: enquiries@specthleygardens.co.uk Web: www.spetchleygardens.co.uk The nearest railway stations to Spetchley Park Gardens are in Worcester some 2.5-3miles away so not the best option by itself. It does however have its very own bus stop just opposite on the A44 via the 349 or 350 route from Worcester so that seems a convenient way to get ...

Black Country Living Museum, Dudley 04/10/2016

Feel history come alive around you

Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Whilst holidaying in Worcestershire we stumbled across the rather intriguing sounding Black Country Living Museum located in the West Midlands, just over the border. The Black Country, a term dating back from the 1840s, was named so probably because of the dreadful air pollution or maybe because of the 30ft thick coal seam partially on the surface seen during the industrial revolution which found the approximate area of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton riddled with coal mines, iron foundries, coking and steel mills no doubt darkening the skies. Dudley was at the heart of the Black Country and the Living Museum was erected there to commemorate this region’s contribution to Britain during the Industrial Revolution allowing you to walks streets as if transported back in time. Admin Getting There Address: Tipton Road, Dudley, DY1 4SQ Website: https://www.bclm.co.uk Driving is a doddle as you can come in on the M5 J2 or M6 J10 and you will soon find helpful brown signs to direct you on your way. The car park is pretty big with coach spaces as well so unless you go at super peak time you shouldn’t have problems getting parking and there is also an overflow car park a short walk away from the museum. The nearest railway station is Tipton which is just 1 mile away. Buses will also work in your favour dropping you off outside the museum including 24 Foxyards Estate to Merry Hill via Dudley; 229 Bilston to Dudley via Coseley, Sedgley; 311 & 313 Walsall to Dudley via ...

Croome Court, Worcester 26/09/2016

The many incarnations of Croome

Croome Court, Worcester The inevitable National Trust property of choice for a holiday in Worcestershire on one unseasonably warm Thursday in September was the rather epic Croome. The property and estate had been in the Coventry family since 1592 when Thomas Coventry, a lawyer and later knighted in 1606 during the reign of James I, purchased Croome D'Abitôt. However, it wasn’t until the rather bold and risk taking George Coventry, 6th Earl, took it over in 1751 that it was transformed into the rather breath taking estate we see before us today. It was also Lancelot “Capability” Brown’s first complete commission and was the launch pad for his rather stellar career and he completely rejuvenated the Jacobean house and surrounding estate with a spectacular landscape garden. The property has undergone many incarnations since being used as a place for engagements during WWI, being placed in the hands of the Croome Estate Trust in 1921, then in WW2 as a potential escape for Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands from the Nazi occupation as well as becoming the home for RAF Defford. In 1942, the Telecommunications Flying Unit, which had a training aircraft and ran flight trials moved in. It then became the nun-run St Joseph's School for boys from 1950-1979 before being taken over by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness until 1984 where it was then turned into an assortment of random things like a conference centre and hotel / golf course. In 1996 the National Trust took over the landscape park ...

Lady's Field House, Stockton-on-Teme 16/09/2016

Live like a Lord or Lady in this cottage

Lady's Field House, Stockton-on-Teme September is annual family cottage holiday time and this year saw a trip to Worcestershire. Lady’s Field House was our 4-star, self-catered cottage of choice for the three of us - with 3 bedrooms and 3 toilets it was to be the lap of luxury. We booked at what we thought was a fairly reasonable price of £750 (£250 each) from cottages4you (aka cottages.com) - we snuck past peak time (where prices will be up and over the £1,000 mark) but were not quite off-peak enough get it for a total steal. Unfortunately, a terrible walking accident saw my mother poleaxed with a fractured leg and so three became two and the price shot up to £375 each. Still, it wasn’t the worst price in the world for what we got which was a surprisingly large cottage completely isolated in stunning surroundings of greenery and a nearby lake to stroll along in peaceful bliss. As long as you avoid the cesspit. Booking Booking online was very easy (as far in advance as February). All we had to do was select the days, fill out the holiday requirements such as number of guests, extra insurance, pets for £25 (assistance dogs free), my own personal contact details and then choose whether to pay by debit card, or the more expensive credit card. Miser Mildew82 went for the debit card and paid a deposit of £45 up front with the rest of the balance to be taken later on in the year in July. Then it was just a whole series of emails with confirmation, balance reminders and arrival /contact details. A quick phone call ...

Witley Court & Gardens, Great Witley 12/09/2016

From the ashes a phoenix will rise

Witley Court & Gardens, Great Witley I always associate National Trust places with stately homes and massive gardens and English Heritage with old ruins which is why I never really bothered to join the English Heritage, although I’m more than happy to visit their properties when they sound interesting…which Witley Court and Gardens in fact did. Even though it was still a ruin, it had a dark tale of tragic destruction associated with it which is the kind of thing that appeals to me. The house started life as a medieval mansion before being spruced up to become a proper Jacobean house by Regency architect John Nash in the 1720s and 1730s. It continued to grow under the keen eye of Lord Dudley and by the 1850s was as splendid as they come, with the family’s epic wealth from industrial enterprises allowing to live an outrageously opulent lifestyle throwing wild parties and displaying all kinds of fineries. Zoom forward to 1937, the property now owned by carpet manufacturer Sir Herbert, when on the night of 7th September disaster struck in the basement bakery when a seemingly small fire broke out. Fanned by strong winds the fire soon spread with the “fire-proof” floors and neglected hydrant system proving useless in the face of such an unforgiving inferno and although a lot of the contents was saved by nearby villagers, the central and eastern sections of the building were completely gutted. With the insurance being just as bad as today on pay outs, Sir Herbert decided to cut his losses and sell up and the house has ...

Elgar Birthplace Museum, Lower Broadheath, Worcester 07/09/2016

Variations on an Original Museum

Elgar Birthplace Museum, Lower Broadheath, Worcester Sir Edward Elgar, arguably one of Britain’s finest and most popular classical composers, was born on the 2nd June 1857 in a little cottage (known as “The Firs” or “Newbury Cottage” throughout the years) in the hamlet of Broadheath, near Worcester. He died in 1934, and in 1935 his birthplace cottage was purchased by the Worcester City Council and was opened up to the public on a very infrequent basis before becoming more popular and opened almost daily to pay homage to the man, as per his daughter, Carice’s wishes. She contributed greatly to the collection by contacting friends and family and the nation to gather things of his together and when she died in 1970 it was obvious that there was simply not enough space in the modest little cottage and so an adjacent visitor centre was built. Eventually it was opened to the public in 2000 and it is these two properties that you can visit on a trip to the Elgar Birthplace and Visitor Centre attraction. Admin Getting There Address: The Elgar Birthplace Museum, Crown East Lane, Lower Broadheath, Worcester, WR2 6RH. Telephone: 01905 333224 www.elgarmuseum.org Driving seems again like the best option to get here (there is no alternative supplied on the website) if you’re not already nearby, but I must say the car park, with about maybe 15-20 spaces, was very small so at peak times (and I couldn’t possibly say how peaky it gets) it could be a real issue parking. But when we turned up there were only 5 cars there so it was a doddle. ...

Eastnor Castle, Ledbury 06/09/2016

A castle on the outside, full of surprises on the inside

Eastnor Castle, Ledbury Whenever I go visit a new area of England I am always on the lookout for a castle – it’s a terrible habit of mine. Staying practically in the middle of Worcestershire, a search didn’t bring much joy beyond a few ruins, but then I discovered Eastnor Castle being less than an hour’s drive (albeit in a different county) and the images that popped up on the world wide web were incredibly castle-like with a stony exterior complete with crenulations adorning the top of towers, so I was sold. Upon arrival, unfortunately the interior didn’t match the exterior in regards to my aspirations for Medieval mayhem, but getting over this, the actual reality was in fact a rather splendid occasion and if it is opulence you’re looking for... The History The castle was built between 1810 and 1824 by 2nd Baron (later 1st Earl) Somers so it was never intended as a military stronghold although it was designed to resemble an Edward 1st medieval fortress as a sign of authority during the nervy period of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Apparently, the real reason may have been a house nearby, with such residents as poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which was labelled as “the finest in the county” and Somers wanted his house to have that title so went a little nutty with the construction just so he could show off. Rather mysteriously this house burnt down during this period and the Castle did successfully gain this title. Sabotage? Elizabeth Barrett Browning was recorded visiting the ...

Exploding Kittens: A Card Game 14/01/2016

An explosive new card game for feline lovers

Exploding Kittens: A Card Game Exploding Kittens – a concept that should perhaps horrify, but is in fact the name of a rather groovy new card game. It started life as a crowdfunding exercise attempting to raise just $10,000 and ended up with 219,382 backers (myself included) pledging $8,782,571 (well I pledged $50 (£35ish), $8million is a bit beyond me until my art heist plan comes to fruition). I think that counts as an unmitigated success. My own donation afforded me the chance to get two copies of the game, the original version and the NSFW version which are both amusing in their own ways and can actually be combined to increase the number of players in a game. With one pack this is a game for 2-5 players and by including other packs this can be increased to up to 10. Advised ages are 7 and up with the original pack…then 30(ish?) if you go with the NSFW version (I’m sure this can be at your own discretion). The current price looks to be about £16 on Amazon for the original version so I’m not sure I got a great deal in reality although the NSFW version seems currently unavailable. How To Play The aim of the game is to be the last unexploded kitten/player. The game starts with a draw pile and a discard pile for used cards which are then removed from the game and a player’s go ends when that player draws one card from the draw pile (or uses an action card that allows them to skip this). There are 9 different types of cards in a pack: • Firstly are the “Exploding Kittens” (one less is entered into the ...

Machinarium (PC) 24/12/2015

A sweet robot love story wrapped in puzzles

Machinarium  (PC) I’m rubbish at most games but I love a good point-and-clicker, especially when there are puzzles aplenty. I also scour GOG.com frequently as they are one of the best resources for point-and-click games which is where I found the Machinarium Collector’s Edition for a mere £6.59, produced by Amanita Design from the Czech Republic. It was first released in October 2009 and is compatible with Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10), Mac OS X (10.6.8) and Linux (Ubuntu 14.04, Mint 17) and comes with the install file, wallpapers, 14 soundtrack mp3s, 8 avatar pictures, behind the scenes images, and some artwork and sketches when you buy from GOG.com. For me, Machinarium is one of the cutest, most creative point-and-click games I’ve played in a long time and the puzzles and games were also some of the most fun and challenging yet still logical that I’ve come across. The Premise The game begins at a scrapyard where the parts of a robot are promptly dumped and scattered about. This acts as your tutorial as you put that robot back together again learning all the various actions available to you along the way and then, as the now fully mobile and functioning robot, you head into an unknown city in the horizon to begin an unknown quest which becomes clearer the longer the it continues with lots of flashbacks of previous events giving an idea of what befell the poor robot and how his girlfriend robot had been kidnapped and was in desperate need of rescuing. You soon encounter other robots on the ...

Rufford Old Hall, Rufford, Ormskirk 06/12/2015

Rufford Old Hall - anything but rough

Rufford Old Hall, Rufford, Ormskirk If you end up randomly staying at a Pontins (don’t ask) in a miserable rainy and windy November all the way up in Southport you may want to escape said Pontins at the first opportunity. The natural choice for us was a National Trust property and we found a very convenient one nearby called Rufford Old Hall. Here you will find a lovely Tudor building with extensions located in a reasonably large estate set fair for a pleasing walk. The hall was built around 1530 for a Robert Hesketh (an English MP and High Sheriff), of which only the Great Hall remains today, and a Jacobean brick building was added perpendicularly in 1661, with a further wing added in the 1820s to connect the two, so it’s all a bit of a mishmash of periods. The house remained with the Hesketh family, who were all lords of the manor of Rufford, so super important, right until it was donated to the National Trust in 1936, although the family moved out of the hall to the cleverly named Rufford New Hall in 1798. There are also, slightly unsubstantiated but fairly certain, rumours that Shakespeare may have also visited and performed in the Great Hall in about 1580 not to mention supposedly a few ghosts milling about the place including a grey lady, a man in Elizabethan clothing, another man floating above the canal and of course Queen Elizabeth I herself. I’m sure she’s got better things to be doing with her time. Until I feel an icy hand on my shoulder I shall remain unconvinced. Admin Address 200 Liverpool ...

Lincoln Castle, United Kingdom 29/10/2015

Thank old William for this classic castle

Lincoln Castle, United Kingdom As a big fan of castles it would have been very remiss had we not visited Lincoln Castle whilst holidaying in Lincolnshire so to avoid this fate, we did in fact visit it. Unfortunately for us we picked a graduation day which meant that the surrounding area was thrumming with students and proud / silently disappointed parents. Normally you can buy a joint Cathedral and Castle ticket at a discount, but since the Cathedral was taken over for the ceremony they weren’t charging that day which was effectively a nice silver lining. So the history of Lincoln Castle in a nutshell - it all began when William the Conqueror strolled in to town and had the castle built by 1068 with the honour of having two mottes and a history including the struggle between King Stephen and Empress Matilda and the Magna Carta of 1215. The castle eventually took on a more practical use in the 18th Century when part of it became a (now retired) gaol with all sorts of grizzly hangings as well as having the Assize courts built in 1826 which are still in use today as Lincoln’s Crown Courts. Admin Getting There Parking in Lincoln seems to be a viable option if you don’t want to use public transport. We just used SatNav to take us to the closest city car parks to the Castle of which consist of three Westgate car parks cleverly labelled 1, 2 and 3 (you can also choose St Paul’s Lane and Castle Hill in the vicinity) which turned out to be very unsuccessful at around 11am, but The Lawn overflow car park just ...
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