11th/14th May, 2012
After a slow and rainy start we picked up our Blue Badge guide Susan Francis and arrived at the 17th century Belton House, the long-time home of the Brownlow family (passing the site of a well-known grocer’s shop on the way). Belton is a fine example of restoration architecture.
The N.T. acquired it with half the original furniture (the other half was sold and bought back by the NT), the superb Mortlake Tapestries and the famous d’Hondecoeter paintings. There were extensive well kept gardens and an orangery, as well as woodland full of bluebells and a lake.
The following day, in beautiful sunshine, we travelled through the delightful Suffolk countryside with its thatched flint stone houses on our way to Norfolk, the Fens and Sandringham with its picturesque gardens, interesting church and museum and delightful homely retreat of our Royal Family with its many treasures just as they use it. Returning to Bury we took a detour via Ely stopping briefly to see the imposing cathedral.
On Sunday we saw the centre of Bury and the ruins of the Abbey, destroyed by Henry VIII and now set in beautiful gardens, Ickworth House with its spectacular Rotunda and a guided tour. After lunch to Lavenham with its historic wooden frame buildings and a Guildhall with an exhibition on the wool industry which gave the town its wealth.
On our final day we visited Gainsborough’s house in Sudbury and Kentwell Hall, a Tudor residence lovingly restored by a couple who have brought up 4 children in it as a family home, with its magnificent topiary bordering a fine moat (see above). Then home via Cambridge and goodbye to our most excellent guide.