Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, England

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Dating from the late 11th century this manor house is regarded as the finest survivor of the medieval period in England. A license was granted to build a wall around the house but stipulated that it would be no more than 12 feet high and not crenellated. Therefore it could not be used as a fortress which probably allowed it to survive. The outside design harkens back to an age and has made the Hall the focus of a variety of film and literature projects.

As part of the home a Norman Chapel was built which includes fabulous remaining frescoes that were once beautifully colored but still maintain the essence of the medieval artform.

The remainder of the home is a wonderful testament to a bygone age. The Long Hall was an elegant meeting room and the original surrounding wall has been absorbed into the structure during later additions. The wall carvings, passage ways and leaded glass windows each add to the ageless elegance of the manor.

Various rooms include painted ceilings and priceless pieces of art seem almost mundane within the setting of the structure itself.

We visited in late summer during a long dry year so the gardens were strained but clearly showed how robust they are. The rambling grounds include wonderful water features and vistas to suit any fantasy.

And always there are the flowers.

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Chatsworth House

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The Cavandish family have lived here in Derbyshire since 1549. The property has been open to the public and been part of a variety of films but 100 of the 126 rooms are still privately occupied by the family. The public areas contain a vast assortment of great art, sculptures and historic documents. The building itself is a grand architectural display.

A variety of gardens surround the complex and includes fountains, trails and several lawn sculptures.

As you enter the residence you may recognize several rooms from films including Pride and Prejudice and The Crown. The walls, ceilings, furniture and design compliment the hung art.

Add to this the table settings, porcelains and furniture and you have a magnificent collection of period interiors.

It could be a challenge to appreciate the hung art which includes Rembrandt among others. But fine art is everywhere you look.

The statuary is striking in its variety as well as quantity. One of the most impressive pieces I’ve ever seen is a veiled Vestal Virgin in the Grotto. The delicate presentation of the veil is translucent which makes it hard to believe it is solid marble.

Other statuary include Napoleon and Napoleon’s mother. The examples of wonderful pieces are so numerous it is challenging to give you a fair impression here

Peak District, England

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Northwest of London and close to Manchester is the Peak District National Park, the first National Park in the United Kingdom. The area is a combination of craggy heights and sprawling moorlands and offered our first introduction to the great British passion for walks. We have hiked in many countries but with classic Brit aplomb these rambling paths through pastures including ageless stone walls and modern fences remind you of strolling rather than heavy exercise.

One more-defined path is to the top of Mam Tor with its commanding view of the Edale Valley. The path is paved with stones representing its occupation since prehistoric times. From the heights you can see walkers far and near approaching across pastures in the surrounding area.

Nearby is Padley Gorge which stands out for its craggy rock formations atop lush green slopes that are heavily populated by local sheep. It is not a true long range walk but the sites are striking enough to motivate parking the car and walking up through the valley.

As you drive through the area the terrain varies little but the variety of treasures to discover is surprising. We made our own attempt to do a wandering walk across the land with entertaining results. Our trail was on a map and we got directions several times but still couldn’t quite interpret the route of these meandering paths through pastures and over fences. Luckily we were befriended by a local couple who we met during their walk. We were lost three times and on the third meeting they walked us to the point of connecting to a defined trail. This “defined trail” crossed several pastures including cattle and sheep to follow a stream and go round a reservoir. A great trip if you knew what you were doing.

Cambridge, England

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The University of Cambridge is made up of 31 constituent colleges spread around the town. It was established in 1209 by a group of Oxford professors after a disagreement with the people of Oxford town. Several of the campuses back up to the Cam River.

A wonderful way to see the campuses along the Cam River is to go punting. The use of flat bottomed boat pushed along by poling into the riverbed is called punting. Along the way you will go under several historic bridges including the Bridge of Sighs. On a busy day it may resemble a California freeway so it is best to ride along and have an experienced guide relate the stories while handling the pole.

The King’s College campus is especially striking. Established by Henry VI and supported by both VII and VIII, the elegant courtyard opens upon several distinctive buildings. The chapel is a magnificent hall that was in the middle of the controversy caused by Henry VIII’s conversion to the Church of England.

Trinity College is another lovely campus along the Cam. Both of these colleges affront the city and form part of the heritage of the University portion of the town.

Similar to Oxford the town welcomes strolling and has ample display of artistic sights to enjoy. The statues of Henry VII and VIII peer at you from buildings and the mechanical clock always draws a crowd to observe the physics in action.

Oxford, England

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Oxford University is the oldest English language college in the world. The town itself is dated back to 900 AD and the University is written about in the 11th century. The University is made up of 38 constituent colleges that share halls and facilities scattered throughout the town. The resulting architecture of the town is a mixture of styles from Norman to Modern. And the mix of peoples walking the streets is truly a cross section of the world.

The history and tradition of Oxford is rich and well represented in the town. Oxford Castle is a Norman installation from the 10th century which was built to secure Norman control but has never been used as a military facility. The Bridge of Sighs is a passage from one building over the street to another that has garnered a wide array of romantic stories over time. The Radcliffe Camera is a round building in central town which houses a world famous library.

Christ Church and Christ Church Meadow combine to make one of the most popular public areas in the town. Entry to the interior of most of the colleges are restricted but the Meadow itself is freely open to enjoy the gardens and views.

Among the most fun tours is that of the Bodleian Library. The 16th century building houses the second largest library in England comprising over 12 million articles. The exterior of the building is lovely but the interior is a wonderful adventure into English history and custom. The library itself was the model for the library of Hogwarts of Harry Potter fame. Cameras are not allowed into the actual library but only in the entrance meeting hall.

Throughout the town you will find towers, statues and a variety of artistic placements. A day can easily be spent strolling along the narrow streets and discovering endless interesting places.

Trengwaiton Gardens, Cornwall England

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This private home is not open to the public but the magnificent gardens are managed be the National Trust and are available. There are several themed gardens including historical gardens and expanded water features.

The local school children work on summer projects celebrating the centenary of some women receiving the right to vote. The great effigies are of inspirational women. They were scattered throughout the walled gardens and posed in appropriate settings.

The classic top of the display was for the Williams sisters complete with the net, court and signage.

And not to be forgotten are the flowers.

Wheal Coates, Cornwall England

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Tin mining in this area of Cornwall has been documented back to 1692 but surface mining goes back to the Middle Ages. Wheal Coates ruins were from the 19th century and restored by the National Trust in the 1970’s. The structures were pump houses and crushing barns for the processing of the raw ore brought up from mines well below sea level. Today their elegant location and the beauty of blooming heather combine to enhance a fabulous walk of the cliffs.

A tour of the restored buildings and additional ruins show the great craftsmanship in the construction. The stonework has its own subtle beauty created by color of the stone and the variety of sizes used in the matrix of the installation.

It is almost incomprehensible to process the natural beauty of the bloom. The brighter colors of the flowers are further highlighted by the more subtle color variations of the bush growth. Bright yellow and lavender flowers beside multiple shades of dark purple, browns and orange.

As we walk along we become so engrossed in the ruins and blooms the focal point gets closer to our feet and always looking inland. And then you look up and turn around and remember where we are.