The Arts Society High Weald plans trips usually twice a year, often to places of special interest that cannot be visited by the public.
Wherever possible we arrange a guide for the day which always gives a visit that extra dimension.
We are always open to suggestions but subjects have to be of a wide enough interest to attract at least 30 people to make a trip financially viable because of transport costs.
Walmer Castle and the Salutation Garden 9 May 2019
A day of dodging the showers but much enjoyed by all. After coffee in the keep on arrival at Walmer, our tour of the castle was enhanced by an engaging and knowledgeable guide, George, who was full of interesting information that really brought the castle and its history to life. This is one of the three “castles in the Downs” built by Henry VIII as part of coastal defences against the threat of a French invasion, but later became the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. Seen from above, the castle and its bastions are in the shape of a Tudor Rose (a coincidence we were told), so when it was converted to a domestic residence the rooms had to fit within the 18ft thick curved walls, resulting in some unusual and interesting shapes.
This is a unique place unlike any other country house as it is in the gift of the crown, so hasn’t had a family living there handing it down from generation to generation. Among the notable Lords Warden to leave their mark are William Pitt the Younger, the Duke of Wellington, high street stationer William Henry (W.H.) Smith, and more recently former Australian prime minister Sir Robert Menzies and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The gardens were originally laid out in the early 19th century by Pitt and his niece Lady Hester Stanhope, who later achieved fame through her visits to the Middle East. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to see the newly-opened restored “Glen” garden. An abandoned chalk pit, which had been an impenetrably dense jungle of bramble, gorse and fallen trees for more than a century has been revealed as a magical place for peace and quiet.
We then moved on to the historic town of Sandwich, one of the five original Cinque Ports and well worth further exploration. After a stop for lunch we visited the gardens of The Salutation, designed by Lutyens and entirely enclosed by sheltering walls. Despite the showers the strength of his design shone through and framed the lovely plantings.
Many of us resolved to return to see more on another day, always a sign of an interesting and enjoyable visit.
The Medieval Churches of Romney Marsh on 5 Sept 2019 a further four churches following our popular visit in 2018
The Wren Churches of London 0n 18th October 2018
A party of members set off by coach and made good time to arrive at St Paul’s Cathedral, to be met by two very knowledgeable City guides and bright sunshine.
After a welcome coffee in the St Paul’s crypt we were split into two parties of twenty, to be shown wonderful sights. The emphasis was on the works of Wren but the city is full of history as well as world-class modern buildings and street art.
Our walk began through Wren’s Temple Bar Gate to St Vedast with its cloistered courtyard, and we started to see how Wren had to work within the existing city street plan and adapt his designs to differently shaped sites to make use of every inch. We are used to the regular shapes of traditional country churches, and Wren used different tricks to create spaces that produce the same effect. We then threaded our way through the back streets to the well-known landmark of St Mary-le-Bow where we had the unexpected bonus of a choir rehearsal.
After lunch we crossed to St Stephen Walbrook where Wren built an early dome in preparation for the Great Dome of St Paul’s. The church has been described as the world’s most finely proportioned interior and this is complemented (or not, depending on your point of view) by a modern circular altar by Sir Henry Moore. We were all charmed by the seemingly tiny Queen Anne style house built hard against the walls with huge modern blocks towering around it, now home to the Walbrook Club. We also spent time exploring another domed interior, St Mary Abchurch and finally St Mary Aldermary. The afternoon was rounded off with a panoramic roof-top view of the City, with St Paul’s looming over us from an unusual angle.
The City of London is unique and there is so much to see in a very civilised atmosphere. We will undoubtedly arrange another visit in the future.
The Medieval Churches of Romney Marsh on 12th April 2018
Glyndebourne behind the Scenes on Thursday 7 Dec 2017
Polesden Lacey & Hatchlands Park on 27th April 2017
Dulwich Picture Gallery & Horniman Museum on Thurs 17 Nov 2016
Chevening House on 22 Sept 2016
Tower of London & Tower Bridge or St.Katharine Dock 10 Mar 2016
Parham House, Storrington on Thurs 24 Sept 2015