Visit to Highclere Castle

Easter Monday, I spent the day with a friend at Highclere Castle. Highclere Castle has been featured as Downton Abbey in the eponymous TV series. It will also be featured in the soon to be released Downton Abbey movie. The closest town is Newbury which was about an hour train ride from Paddington Station. We were very lucky, the day we went it was both beautiful outside and the castle wasn’t that crowded. There were enough people there to make it lively but not enough to make it seem like a crowd.

We got to Highclere Castle at about 10 am. There is a vintage Citro├źn H Van that is used as a food truck in the car park right before the entrance. We stopped and had an ice cream and a beer and enjoyed our view of the castle.

Food truck offering snacks and beverages
Have a beer and enjoy the view

The walk up to Highclare Castle is very impressive. It’s easy to see why it was picked for the tv series. The grounds surrounding the castle are lovely. At the entrance to the tour is a gorgeous vintage Rolls Royce that belonged to the 6th Earl of Carnarvon.

The view coming up the walk
Vintage Rolls Royce at the entrance

We took the tour that included a tour of the castle and a tour of the Egyptian exhibition. I had not known previously but Highclere Castle is the home of the Earl of
Carnarvon. The current owner is the 8th Earl of Carnarvon. His great grandfather was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was the financial backer and partner to Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. The Egyptian part of the tour consisted of artifacts from the 5th Earl’s excavations in Egypt and a reproduction of Tutankhamun’s tomb with replicas of the artifacts found in the tomb.

There were docents in every room of both the castle and the Egyptian exhibit. The docents were both friendly, informative, and willing to talk both about the castle and about the filming of Downton Abbey when asked. One of the docents told us that watching the filming was boring. They weren’t able to see much and most of the time they were there to make sure the film crew didn’t accidentally break anything.

They do not allow pictures either inside the castle or the in the Egyptian exhibition but you can take as many pictures as you like of the lovely outside. We spent a good 4 hours just on touring the castle and the Egyptian exhibit so we didn’t take an extensive tour of the gardens and we didn’t visit any of the follies.

Another lovely view of the castle

While we were waiting for our cab to take us back to the Newbury train station, we spoke to one of the hospitality managers (we jokingly called him “Carson”) and he said that we were very lucky, Easter day had been crowded but Easter Monday was pretty much a perfect day to visit. We had to agree with him.

Here is information about Highclere Castle and how to book tickets for a tour:

Leo rides the bus for the first time

Leo and I have had three successful rides on the Underground so I decided that he was ready to try a bus trip. I wanted to go to Ruislip to get some keys made so I thought that would be a good initial trip for Leo. We could walk it in under 30 minutes so that makes it a very short bus ride.

To get to Ruislip from the bus stop closest to our house I can take the U1 or the U10. I wasn’t clever enough to check the bus schedule before we left home. I can check it on my phone but keeping Leo in line, walking, and checking my phone requires more coordination than I have. The bus stop is still about a quarter mile away so I kept walking Leo quickly and looking back to make sure the bus wouldn’t pass us by before we got to the stop. Sure enough I was about 25 yards from the stop and I’d forgotten to look back and the bus whizzed by Leo and me and by the bus stop. What made it more irritating is that it had to stop at a light right after the bus stop and it waited there long enough for Leo and I to make it to the stop and just watch the bus sit at the stop light. I don’t think that buses here open their doors for passengers when they aren’t at a stop so I didn’t even try. I didn’t want the confusion with Leo along.

I could have sat at our bus stop and waited for the next bus to come in about 10 minutes, or walk another couple of minutes and wait for the bus at the next stop. Since Leo isn’t crazy about sitting still and hearing loud trucks and cars whiz by, we walked to the next stop.

Waiting for the bus to Ruislip, ready to sniff somebody’s rear end

Our wait was short, only about 5 minutes or so. Leo tried to sniff everyone who walked by so after the first time he stuck his nose in a passerby’s backside, I kept him on a short leash and made him sit next to me.

On the short leash, waiting.
Here comes the U1

The U1 bus came after a few minutes and we boarded. I wanted to take a picture of Leo boarding the bus, but I am not coordinated enough to take a picture, tap my oyster card on the turnstile, and get Leo up the stairs at the same time. We sat down on the lower level near the front at the first set of empty seats. Poor Leo got knocked about a bit because I was trying to keep him off the seat and on the floor and he stumbled and fell. He was a trooper and although he did a lot of lunging and attempts at sniffing people, he mostly left other people alone.

The bus rides are a bit jarring and jolting, so I did my best to keep Leo from falling all over the place when he attempted to bolt and sniff our fellow passengers or jump on the seat. I was distracted and I failed to hit the buzzer on time so our bus lurched its way past our stop and let us off at the next time. Because of this, Leo and I got to walk a bit on the High Street, Ruislip. We walked to the key shop and dropped off our keys. We walked around a bit while waiting for our keys but the shop made our keys quickly so paid for our keys and headed back to the bus stop. I decided to walk to the stop on the High Street and just like before, as we were crossing the street, the bus glided past our stop and then proceeded to stop at a stop light just past the stop. Again I decided to wait for the next bus.

Growling at traffic
Waiting for the bus on the High Street

The next bus came and we boarded. This ride was a little smoother because Leo was less nervous and I was a little better at maneuvering myself to a set of empty seats and Leo to the floor at my feet.

On the bus back home

The ride was still bumpy but I was better at holding Leo and he was less nervous so it was basically a successful trip. I plan on doing this again and taking Leo to the Lido in Ruislip.

Leo rides the Underground for the second time

Today Leo and I attempted another trip on the Underground. I wanted us to go to Pinner so we could walk part of the Celandine Route. We walked to the Ickenham Underground station. My plan was to take the Metropolitan line to Aldgate to Harrow-on-the-Hill, change trains to a Metropolitan line train that goes to Pinner.

On the way to Ickenham Underground station
Leo growling at the approaching train

Two lines run through the Ickenham train station, the Metropolitan line and the Piccadilly line. I got confused while we were waiting and let a Metropolitan train go by and boarded a Piccadilly train.

We should have boarded this train but I got confused and boarded the Piccadilly train instead

Once the train started to move, I realized my mistake and we rode the train to Rayners Lane where we switched to a Metropolitan train going towards Aldgate.

At Rayners Lane, final destination is Pinner via Harrow-on-the-Hill

It actually worked out better since I think breaking up the ride into legs was a little easier on Leo’s nerves. He was good on the train rides but very skittish and nervous.

Leo is still a bit nervous on the train

We changed trains at Harrow-on-the-Hill and boarded another Metropolitan line trains to Pinner.

Leo at Harrow-on-the-Hill

This second trip was a success. Leo is getting used to riding the train and the more we ride, the more accustomed he will become. I plan on taking him on many more rides.

Up the stairs and on the way out of the station
We’ve arrived in Pinner

Adventures on the Celandine Route Part 2 (finding the start of the trail)

After our initial slightly terrifying walk on our first attempt on the Celandine Route we have walked parts of the trail many times. We have not completely walked the trail yet but we have mostly walked the first half of the trail. I’ve attempted to find all four of the Celandine Route signs in the first half of the trail but I’ve only found three signs.

We start from the part of the Celandine Route from where the Chiltern Railways stone bridge crosses the trail and the trail starts to wind around the western side of the Ruislip golf course.

The walk along the western edge of the Ruislip golf course is muddy but lovely. We walk right beside the River Pinn. Most of this part of the trail has woods and bushes that block the view of the golf course and also protect walkers from flying golf balls. Part of the walk is right on the edge of the course and my two concerns on this part are keeping Leo from bounding across the golf course and irritating the golfers or golf balls flying through the air and beaning Leo or myself.

After we leave the golf course we come upon a large field. To continue the trail we exit the field and walk through a neighborhood in Ruislip. We walk along Woodville Gardens and cross a small footbridge on Orchard Ave to pick up the River Pinn again. We follow the river past Bishop Winnington Ingram C of E Primary School and cross the A4180 to the field at Manor Farm. This field contains Point 4.

Leo and a pair of ducks along the Pinn River at Manor Farm

After reaching Manor Farm we cross the St Martin’s Approach and enter Pinn Meadow.

Pinn Meadows information board from Hillingdon Council

In Pinn Meadow we continue to follow along the river through fields and we reach a running track, skateboard park and the Ruislip Cricket club. We cross King’s College Road and continue walking through Pinn Meadow.

Sobering sight on King’s College Road

The walk along Pinn Meadows is pleasant and about a two thirds of a mile. We cross Elmbridge Drive and walk about a quarter mile more and eventually get to Point 3 and High Road Eastcote. It’s a busy road with fast moving traffic so I’m careful to cross at the zebra crossing which is fortunately adjacent to wear Point 3 sits on the trail.

Walking along the High Road in Eastcote has been good training for both Leo and I. The traffic is fast moving and loud and the first couple of times we walked this part of the Celandine Route Leo jumped and bolted constantly. We only have about 100 yards to walk and we enter the grounds of Eastcote House Gardens. The grounds are nice, there is a cafe and a toilet there (which by this time is very welcome!) and it’s a good place to amble through. I generally keep Leo on leash there because I don’t want him to bother people by running up to them.

Eastcote House Gardens has a cafe

While we are walking in Eastcote House Gardens we lose sight of the River Pinn but once we walk through we cross the River Pinn and follow it again along Long Meadow. I like Long Meadow better than Pinn Meadows because it’s easier to keep Leo off leash while we walk Long Meadow.

Long Meadow near EastCote House Gardens
Leo and I have found Point 2 in Long Meadow

In Long Meadow we also find Point 2. We walk about another third of a mile until we cross Cheney Street. After we cross Cheney Street we follow the river through some woods adjacent to houses and we come to Cuckoo Hill Allotment site. Leo is always curious about the allotment site so I keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t find an open gate that he can slip through.

Cuckoo Hill Allotment site

When we come to the end of the allotment site at Cranbourne Drive. Luckily Cranbourne Drive has a wonderful Celandine Route sign so it’s easy to pick up the trail.

A short walk on Cranbourne Drive and we take a slight left on West End Lane at the traffic circle. Here we leave the River Pinn and walk along West End Lane until we see West Lodge Primary School. Across from the school is an entrance to Pinner Memorial Park. Close to the entrance to the park is a little circle of graves. According to the Celandine Route web site, this is a dog cemetary from the 19th century.

Pinner Memorial Park is a lovely park with a duck pond, a museum, and a cafe. It also has several child playgrounds and many benches for relaxing. Next to the museum and the cafe, there is also an aviary.

Lovely view across the duck pond
Pinner Memorial Park has an Aviary and a cafe

When we left the park we passed a sign that pointed to the continuation of the Celandine Route. The route is supposed to start at the Pinner Underground station but as I left the park and attempted to follow the direction of the sign, I could not find Point 1.

We’ve been back several times trying to find the start of the Celandine Route. We have yet to find it. I don’t think the elusive Point 1 exists but that won’t stop me from continuing our trips to find it.

We’ve find the sign point to the Celandine Route but we have yet to find the elusive Point 1

Adventures on the Celandine Route Part 1

Since January Leo and I have been going out on excursions trying to walk the entire Celandine Route.

These wellies have come in handy on our walks

The Celandine Route is a trail that spans 12 miles, mostly along the River Pinn. We’ve been walking parts of the trail since January but we have yet to do the entire trail. I first noticed that there was something called the Celandine Route while Leo and I were walking along the trail near our house. We followed the signs along the trail for the Celandine Route and went under the stone railroad bridge for the Chiltern Railways . We found a path that traverses the west side of the Ruislip golf course that follows along the River Pinn.

The sign that peaked my interest

We followed the trail through a large clearing and out into one of the neighborhoods in Ruislip. We picked up the trail again along the Pinn River and we eventually ended up in a field on Manor Farm in Ruislip. We walked to the edge of the field and saw this sign that told us we were at Point 4 of the Celandine Route.

The sign that started my interest in the Celandine Route

The sign intrigued me and I decided that Leo and I would try to walk the entire route. This sign lists 6 points but when I found information on the Celandine walks on the Hillingdon Council web site, the web page displayed a map that had 21 points along the trail.

That day I discovered the sign I got us lost going back to the Ruislip golf course. I never found the golf course that day and I got Leo and I diverted to Breakspur Road. We ended up on a part of Breakspur Road that had no sidewalks and not much of a shoulder. What shoulder it had was full of broken glass and was bordered on the other side by barbed wire. Leo jumped and balked everytime a car whizzed by us. It was incredibly dangerous and I had to carry Leo twice because I was afraid he would break free and run in the road. We survived this ordeal I had inflicted on us for three quarters of a mile.

We have since been back to the Celandine Route and have had several more successful navigations. We have not yet perambulated the entire route but we are looking forward to making many more journeys and posting about it.

Leo enjoying his walk on the Celandine Route

Leo rides the Underground for the first time

I’d been wanting to introduce Leo to the public transportation system since we moved here. The London Underground allows dogs on their trains and buses. I wanted to take this slowly because Leo is a skittish, anxious dog (I call him “the Spaz” sometimes) and I wanted him to get used to the loud, sudden noises.

When we walk on the pavement and not on the trail Leo will sometimes jump, bolt, or attempt to hide behind my legs when a loud truck, bus, or car passes by us. For the past couple of months, Leo has slowly become accustomed to walking on the pavement alongside the road. Last week Leo and I walked out to West Ruislip and I decided to take Leo on his first ride.

He stood patiently with me while we waited for an eastbound train. He was a bit hesitant about stepping onto the train but he did get on and follow me to a seat. I wanted him to sit on the floor while we rode but he got skittish as soon as the train started moving and he jumped up on a seat next to me and looked around and out of the window as we rode. I was glad that we took the train midday when there aren’t many people riding the Central line.

We only rode two stops to South Ruislip where we got off the train and waited for a train to take us back to West Ruislip. Leo was fairly calm while we waited and again although I wanted him to sit on the ground next to me while I sat on the bench, he hopped up next to me and took in his surroundings.

When our westbound train came, he was a bit more confident boarding the train and on our trip back he seemed less anxious. Another passenger came up to us to talk and she gave Leo a pet and told him how good he was. So, this was a positive experience for Leo and I intend to repeat this so Leo and I can ride the train together and travel more. Our next goal is riding the bus.

Further adventures with IKEA (desk and chair)

When we moved into this house, there were two rooms that were available for my husband and I for offices on the ground floor. Both faced the front of the house. One room was large with cabinet space and I thought that it would be nice for my husband’s office because it had room for his vinyl records. The other room was small and off the bedroom and I was going to use it for my sewing room and office. My husband is the one who works 8 plus hours a day while I cavort with Leo so I thought that was only fair.

My lovely husband decided to let me have the larger room for the office. For this I was very grateful. I can now display my doll collection and I have a room for a large bookshelf with fashion, doll, and sewing books, a table to hold my sewing machine, and a table to cut fabric on. I’m very happy with it.

Because my husband was so gallant, I decided to order a desk and chair from IKEA for him. He wanted a desk that was big enough to hold a couple computer monitors and to store paperwork and office supplies but not too big for the room. I went shopping on the IKEA web site and with my husband’s approval, I ordered an EKEDALEN chair and a HEMNES desk.

The boxes came and unusual for me, I started on assembly the next day. (It usually takes me about 1-2 weeks of procrastination to assemble something from IKEA) I decided to assemble the chair first because it was an simpler task. As usual before starting, I laid out the big parts and the small parts.

The chair was easy to assemble, not many parts. All I had to do was to attach the legs to the apron, attach the apron to the back, and insert the seat into the apron. It was very easy and with very few steps. I just had to make sure that everything was bolted in securely so the chair won’t fall apart.

The chair is ready!

Next job was to assemble the desk. It was a more intimidating task than the chair. The desk came in two boxes which is a clue that the job will take a lot of time. I cracked open box 1 of 2 and as usual I was impressed about the way IKEA packs their boxes. I admire the efficiency in their design and engineering; there not much space wasted in their boxes. Every piece fits into place.

I pulled out the instructions and started to lay out the parts. There were two bags of hardware; one bag for each of the boxes. The instructions had sixty-eight steps. This was going to take a considerable amount of time. I pulled out the hardware for Box 1 and laid out my tools.

The assembly process was relatively easy and the directions were straight forward. I assembled each side of the desk body separately and then attached them together .

Twenty-seven steps later, the body of the desk is complete.

Still only on step 27, 41 more steps to go

After the body of the desk was complete I opened up box 2. Box 2 of the Hemnes desk contained the drawers, door, and desktop.

Box 2 ready to be assembled

I pulled out the bag of hardware for Box 2 and laid out the parts. This part of the assembly process was a bit more difficult than Box 1. There were twice as many steps and some of the steps were a bit trickier. Assembling the drawers entailed hammering in plastic screws into the sides of the drawers to hold the drawers together. I could not find a way to do this without clutching the drawer together and pounding the screws in at the same time. Lining up the door to the desk cabinet was a little tricky as well and it also took some time lining up the top of the desk on the desk body.

Still, I accomplished my mission and sixty-eight steps later, my husband has a new desk.

Desk and chair ready