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Friday 20th September 2019

A hardy group of intrepid 7 Members assemble at the hotel, the Maid’s Head Hotel for a welcome drink at the bar and excellent dinner at the Wine Press restaurant. The Maid’s Head claims to be oldest hotel in England. The hotel was mentioned frequently in the C J Sanson historical novel, Tombland, featuring the lawyer, Matthew Shardlake.

Saturday 21st September

After a fortifying breakfast, we report for a group photo before embarking on a mini bus to the Forum and met our guide for a walking tour. We started at the Market Square, walked past the City Hall (where Adolf Hitler would have made his East England HQ had he won WW2) and viewed the St Peter Mancroft Church, and entered to inspect its beautiful interior and rare 16th Flemish tapestry in excellent condition. We proceeded to the Guildhall (second largest in England) which served as a Court house, debtors’ prison, and HQ of the City constabulary. We paused outside an entrance to a former goldsmith’s shop (the stone was pillaged from a dissolved monastery) and inspected a whipping chain for the unfortunate miscreants of a bygone age!

Proceeding on, we walked through the fine Victorian Royal Arcade and dived into the mediaeval backstreets of Elm Hill, admired a flint covered mansion the Bridewell, and see some original Flemish weavers’ cottages (the City ‘s symbol, the canary, is derived from the canaries the weavers kept to accompany their work). We strolled past the River Wensum and towards Tombland and admire Augustus Seward House (the numbered timbers at the back showed one of the first examples offsite building prefabrication!).

Then onto the Cathedral, to admire the architectural glory of Norwich, the highest tower in England (the spire is the third survivor). Our cathedral guide shepherded our group for a fascinating tour of the cloisters, encouraged us to look up at the magnificent roof bosses, mediaeval altar panels, choir stalls (one of the misericords shows a cook trying to stop a fox stealing food, whilst behind her a pig is sticking his snout into the cooking pot). We could have spent more time there! But now, we wanted some free time to roam around the City, look for our own lunch venues (but not spoiling our appetites for dinner later) and relax.

A comfortable 52 seater coach picked us up from the hotel for the short trip the Assembly House, where we enjoyed a fine three course dinner in an atmospheric private dining room, the Hobart Room, sampled our delicious three course dinner, amid the period features of the original Georgian fireplace, sash windows and décor. We returned to our capacious coach for the return trip to the Maid’s Head, for a comfortable night’s sleep after a very satisfying day.

Sunday 22nd September

After another good breakfast, we clambered aboard our spacious coach for the transfer to the Sandringham Estate. Before entering, we inspected the wares of a local farmers’ market. We approached the main entrance for a group photo. We stepped inside before being sternly warned that no indoor photography is permitted. We admired the interior, are amused by the weighing stool Edward VII used for his guests to see how much weight they had gained during their stay! The rooms contain fine furniture, ceramics, paintings yet it retained a homely, intimate charm, not at all overwhelming.

We enjoyed a stroll around the beautifully kept gardens, and some of us had time to go to the Sandringham Exhibition and Transport Museum.

Time for a roast lunch at the Café and Coffee shop, where most of us chose locally reared Sandringham Roast Lamb as our main course.

Finding that we had enough time left, we explored one of the most famous parish churches in the world, St Mary Magdalene, admired the sumptuously decorated chancel, the silver pulpit and the many memorials.

Time up and we returned to our capacious coach and a final trip to the Maid’s Head in Norwich, where we said our thanks and farewells, took away our fond memories of an interesting itinerary and renewed our friendship.

15 persons met at the Chelsea Physic Garden for a guided tour, led by experienced volunteer, Anabelle Nabarro, who imparted so many interesting features of the garden. We learned the history of the garden (founded originally in 1673) and of the medicinal qualities of the some of the plants found there. These included the Petty Spurge or “Milkweed” (which is being investigated for the treatment of skin cancers), Agapanthus (used in Africa for ante and postnatal treatments) and varieties of yew (Pacific yew, although it can be toxic, contains elements of “taxol” in its bark) and two enormous Ginkgo Biloba trees (which in Chinese traditional medicine is called the “memory tree”). We were also shown examples of grapefruit and olive trees (notoriously difficult to grow in the UK, and unfortunately these examples were not known for their palatability!). Not to be outdone, one of the Club Members, Dr David Giachardi, a trained chemist, outlined how mauveine dye was accidently discovered in an attempt to synthesise quinine chemically. You never what you might learn next on a Ward of Cheap Club excursion!

12 dined at the Physic Garden Café, in the outdoor gazebo, which featured the best of British produce and ingredients (organic, of course)! For those who did not have other appointments afterwards, Lord and Lady Mountevans extended an invitation for afternoon tea at their home, which provided the perfect close to a highly informative and enjoyable day.

15 persons assembled for the somewhat chaotic embarkation at Embankment Pier to board the Glass Room boat operated by Bateaux London, to the accompaniment of a jazz band and a welcome prosecco. The boat travelled at first upstream, and turned near the Houses of Parliament to head downstream, through Tower Bridge, past HMS Belfast, Wapping, Isle of Dogs, Cutty Sark and then to the O2 before returning to Embankment Pier.

A special premier 5 course lunch was served and consumed amid the leisurely atmosphere of the jazz band as wonderful sights slipped gently by. All too soon, the trip ended but our club members disembarked with the pleasant memories of a nautical Sunday afternoon excursion, convivial company and first class cuisine.

26 walkers rendezvoused at St Paul’s tube station to be led by our experienced guide, Kevin Larder of “Real London Walks”. The theme was to explore places around Smithfield that most people would not notice or take a second glance. These included Panyer Alley (and the Panyer Boy bas relief next to Café Nero), Paternoster Square (look for the vents at the base of the Monument), Temple Bar, Postman’s Park (and the memorial of glazed tablets established by GF Watts, commemorating acts of bravery), St Vedast and its tranquil courtyard garden (with Roman pavement and an unexpected sculpture of a bust by Jacob Epstein), the Watch House overlooking St Sepulchre’s (to guard against body snatchers!), the Golden Boy of Pye Corner (marking the westerly extent of the Fire of London), Smithfield (and the memorial for William Wallace) and finally Charterhouse Square (including the burial ground of the Great Plague uncovered by Crossrail excavations).

After so much exploring, it was time for lunchtime refreshment at the nearby Vestry, where 21 walkers took their leisure in a converted vesting room of St Sepulchre’s to sample a delicious three course lunch and quality wines.