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Girls, Getaways and Gardens in England

Girls, Getaways and Gardens in England

For the past few weeks I’ve been taking my fertile imagination from one south-of-England trade show to another and bright ideas for girls getaways have been popping up all over the place.

This week’s Britain Insider takes a look at some eye-catching fashion exhibitions in London and Bath and some great Cotswold-based ideas with a focus on embroidery, lace and priceless tapestries.

I’ve also flagged up a couple of attractive garden festivals for clients who can’t make it to the Chelsea Flower Show and I’ve finished on a high note with a wonderful musical experience in Kent.

Next week I’ll be highlighting some new girls getaways to London and the Cotswolds and looking at some new ways of cruising the River Thames.

Putting On The Style

If you want to impress your female friends let’s put together a London Girls Getaway that includes Fashion Rules (dresses from H M The Queen, the Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales) and special tours of the V&A and the Fashion and Design Museum and lots of time for shopping!

As part of the six-night programme, include a side trip to the Roman city of Bath for two days of Jane Austen connections, a rooftop swim at the Thermae Bath Spa and a visit to the Fashion Museum to see their exhibition ‘The Georgians: Dress for Polite Society’.

You should also add a visit to the American Museum where there’s a fabulous Quilt Collection and an exhibition of the world renowned American knitwear and textile designer Kaffe Fasset.  As it’s all there until 2nd November, you can now start planning a UK trip for the autumn.

Tapestries, Kneelers and Wall hangings

Talking of knitwear and textiles, think of another Girls Getaway with the London visits above but this time with a couple of nights in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds where you can follow the Woodstock Textile Trail which includes:

– The Woodstock Wall Hangings that tell the town’s story in colourful textile pictures;

– The Stonesfield Embroidery, a fine and rare example of 18th century needlework; and

– St Mary Magdalen’s Church where you’ll find over 200 kneelers, each with about 28,000 individual stitches.

On the next day, take a look at the truly magnificent tapestries that adorn the State Room walls in Blenheim Palace and add a visit to Kelmscott Manor the former home of William Morris, the single most important textile designer of the 19th century.

Treasure Filled Waddesdon Manor

As another side trip from London, I can also recommend a visit to the French chateau style Waddesdon Manor.  Just north-west of London it was built in the late 19th century by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to display his outstanding collection of art treasures and to entertain the fashionable world.  As there’s so much to see here, allow a full day to do it properly.

Begin with an upstairs and downstairs Miss Alice’s tour of the house and after lunch, take time to see their March to October ‘Imagine – Lace at Waddesdon’ Exhibition. It includes historic lace acquired by Baroness Edmond de Rothschild (1853-1935) as well as contemporary work from lace makers and selected artists.

Then before a very good English afternoon tea, go for a wander in the Victorian gardens, considered by many to be among the finest in Britain.

Tulips, Roses, Raspberries and Radishes

For many gardeners, getting away during May is a total impossibility as they are busy with their own festivals and events.  This prevents you from using Chelsea as the hook for your garden tour, but help is at hand with other annuals such as the Tulip Festival at award winning Pashley Manor.

Now in its 10th year, over 25,000 glorious blooms grace this quintessential Sussex English garden and it makes a very good focal point for a four-night tour which includes other gardens in southeast England with equally fine displays.

I also like the look of their Roses, Raspberries and Radishes celebration of flowers and fruits of the garden scheduled this year for 10th-21st June.  Floral and fruity fun in the English countryside.

Music for an English Country House

I’m often asked “Which is your favourite stately home?” and with so many to choose from, it’s one that’s almost impossible to answer.  That said, the Finchcocks Musical Museum in the Kent is right up there at the top of the list as it brings together magnificent Baroque Georgian architecture, a lovely garden, wonderful music and a jolly good English afternoon tea.

Sunday is one of the best times for a visit and I can recommend an early pub lunch, a tour of the garden and museum and then a humorous and entertaining recital given by guest artists on some of the period instruments in the private collection.

VIP groups can also enjoy exclusive guided tours of the museum and an informal recital on some of the instruments, hosted by the Finchcocks owners, pianist and collector Richard Burnett and his wife Katrina.

With other exciting visits in London this side trip could be one of the high points in a tour customised for your contacts at the Friends of the Symphony.