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Published: August 2nd 2017
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Jane Austen's house at Chawton
Waking with some glorious sunshine we had a leisurely breakfast with much chat and friendly banter. We set out about 10-30 to execute Judy's plan for the day. We drove first to Chawton. This was the home of Jane Austen for several years before her death and I could not resist visiting. As we arrived there were many ladies and gentlemen , all dressed in Regency style costumes, assembled on the lawn outside the house. Judy discovered that they were from the Hampshire Regency Dance Group and were staying in Chawton for the weekend to explore all things, Austen. While Judy and Roger went for a stroll, Fletcher and I paid the entrance fee and went on to see where Jane had lived and written. The house itself is quite small and they have furnished it as it may have been in Jane's time. There is an outside bakehouse away from the main building and a pretty garden. Inside, on the ground floor, there is the kitchen which once would have been detached from the house with a small brick oven and a large table. Then we entered the drawing room which contains some furniture once belonging to Jane and her
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Hampshire Regency Dancing Group
brothers, artefactsThey have covered the walls with pretty replica wallpaper which has been made from fragments found i the house. This would have been the main entertaining room of the house. The adjacent Dining Parlour is where Jane spent much of her time and it contains a small writing table where she wrote several of her books. Upstairs contains a small bedroom which Jaane shared with her sister, Cassandra. Next to this is the room Jane's mother would have slept in. There is a third bedroom and two small dressing rooms and there is an attic which may have been used by the servants. Each room artifacts from Jane's time including clothes and it is interesting to see how they would have lived. I really enjoyed it!!
From there we drove to the town of Laverstoke where in the former Laverstoke Mill is now the distillery of Bombay Sapphire gin. This is the only place in the world where Bombay Sapphire is made. By this time it was about 1-30pm but Fletcher and I had to go in. The River Test flows through the mill and the clear water has been maintained by a clearing and planting process. Inside
we saw the beautiful glasshouses where they grow many of the natural ingredients that are infused into the gin. Plants such as Juniper, coriander, orris root and lemon to name a few.Then it was into the Botanical Room where we could sniff and select the ingredients which were pleasing to us, individually. We were then taken on a tour of the distillery itself and we saw the stills, named Thomas and Mary, which are still used to make the gin. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, passed from one distiller to the next verbally and never written down. the tour guide explained the evaporation process to us which was very interesting. The last stage was, of course, the tasting. I went for a straight Gin and Tonic while Fletcher tried the Laverstoke special which he said was very good. Roger and Judy joined us there.
By this time it was 3-45pm and we were rather hungry so we drove around the corner to the Watership Down Inn where we had a very nice pub lunch. No rabbit on the menu though!! From there it was back to Judy and Roger's place for a rest and some TV watching
of Pointless and Eggheads! Later we had a light supper of cold meats and salad which was very nice and of course much conversation and fun.
On Monday, Judy was going to her once a month beading group in the village of Ripley so we dropped her off there and Roger then drove Fletcher and I to Brooklands Museum. Roger is a member there as he has a keen interest in airplanes and machinery due to his many years as a Marshall at Heathrow. Brooklands was the first purpose built motor racing circuit in the world and was constructed in 1907. The banked track can still be seen although part of the circuit has now been sold and built on.During both wars, it was the site of experimentation and weapons research and was where Barnes-Wallis invented the bouncing bombs that the Dam Busters used. It was also the home of the Concorde. We walked around the large planes first which includes the Brooklands Concorde , a VC-10 and several others. We then went into the Vimy shed which houses a replica of the Vimy that renacted the types of long voyages during 1919-20 including a flight from London to
Reverend Austen's bookcase
Australia. There was also a Sopwith camel and some earlier planes as well. As we walked from there our attention was directed to the noise of cars. They had some old cars taking passengers up the hill run which was entertaining to watch. This was ust past the large hangar that has been restored and which is to house live aircraft that can be wheeled out and their engines run as demonstrations. This is set to be available by the end of August. We then saw the motor pavilions housing a range of old cars from the earliest years of motoring up to the 1950s. Roger could identify and tell us about them and it was a fascinating bit of history. Tthere was an exhibition of the history of the world land speed record and a Malcolm Cambell hut with his attempts at the world record detailed. We had lunch in the cafe, sandwiches and coffee, and in that building was the Barbara Cartland Room. Apart from writing soppy Romance books, she was a pioneer in women's motoring and racing. Our final visit was the one which interested me the most. It was the Barnes-Wallis Stratosphere Chamber, an experimental building
where aircraft and boats could be tested in all sorts of climatic conditions to see what effect extreme cold etc would have on them. It was huge and contained displays of engines, the bouncing bombs and a wind tunnel complete with the fuselage of a large plane. The history here was what hooked me in.
We had had a lovely time. Next to the Museum is Mercedes Benz World and as we went back to the car we could see Mercedes cars roaring around its track and doing spinouts and side slides in the watered area. Roger then drove us to show us where he used to live and then it was back to Ripley to collect Judy. We arrived about 45 minutes early so walked to The Ship and had a drink. Then it was collect Judy after buying some wine and dessert and then back to Lythe Hill Park, We watched our favourite quiz programs and then Judy cooked a delicious pasta sauce which we accompanied with the Black Shiraz we had brought from Australia for them. A viewing of University Challenge and then some quizzing followed with more red wine opened and consumed. A
great night was had by all!
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