We’ve just returned from what we have deemed one of the best weekends-away together we’ve had in a long time. Perhaps that was partly because the fun we had was so unexpected!
We were welcomed into a Southampton B&B by a thin, older gent who said by way of greeting, “Oh! I can’t see the Forrest for the trees, is it?” Slightly thrown off guard, we replied with a more traditional “Hello” and were introduced more formally to Brian and his wife Eileen (though he introduced her as “the one who did the email”) who run the Rivendell Guesthouse.
After a thrilling night watching the Olympics (is anything better than track or field – or athletics, as it is called here? The 10,000m makes my heart race.), we woke to a full English brekkie before heading out to the New Forest. No one in Oxford had recommended Southampton or the New Forest particularly strongly (we heard a lot of “well, it’s, you know, lots of trees?”) but we wanted to explore Hampshire nonetheless. Turns out the New Forest is underrated.
We enjoyed walking around for a couple of hours, then hopped in the car to find Lepe, a beach site of significance on D-Day. We got a little lost (I blame myself, surprise surprise) and ended up at a bit of a dead-end.
The drive was beautiful but…
We spent the afternoon exploring the grounds of Beaulieu, including the Palace House and the former Lord Montagu’s extensive car collection. Both were amazing and well worth the entrance fee. We tried to look past the kitsch of the costumed actors, but when it turned out a few of them were opera singers and performed for us, we were assuaged. Downton Abbey certainly has been good for these National Trust properties.
This car was an early automobile – if you can call it that. Turns out the inventor was a bit of a charlatan who swore that 9 people could ride on the automotive, and that it had a top speed of 40mph, and one advertisement showed the Pennington Autocar (great name) jumping a ravine! Oh, and one more unbelievable added bonus – its tires were unpuncturable. Pretty good for the 1890s!
Another early car – the horseless carriage. Amazing to think about. Most of these early vehicles could only travel 5-10 miles per hour. Not much of an advantage over horse-led carriages, I’d imagine! The little boy next to me asked his mum – “Were these the kind of cars you had?” She snorted – “Oh, back in 1896 when I was a kid?!”