Hello Blog Followers,
It’s been a few days since I posted, mainly because I have been off at the Annual Jaguar Driver’s Club Spring Meet in Baskingstoke, Hampshire, which is west of London. This event was put on by the “XK Register” (or Division) of the Club exclusively for XK owners. We met at Audleys Wood Hotel, pictured above, a nice old manor house converted into a hotel and conference center and set of 14 lovely wooded and lawn covered acres. Properly British place. About 40 in attendance with the preponderance of cars being XK150s. The group was welcoming and friendly and most curious about the crazy American in their midst. Some photos follow.
Our first adventure was a short countryside drive to the Bombay Gin Distillery in the village of Laverstroke Mill, where Bombay took over an old paper mill which used to produce all the paper stock for British currency. They have fully restored the old site, and added to it, most noticeably, the two “glass houses” which replicate the tropical environments where the ingredients for their product are grown.
The alcohol part of gin, we learned, is pretty much a tasteless, odorless grain spirit, the secret being the eight exotic “botanicals” that are infused into the product during distillation. The botanicals range from common juniper berries and lemon peel to several things I had never heard of from the far corners.
The highlight of the tour was an opportunity to smell the various ingredients in their sub-forms (spicy, earthy, musty, etc.) and select those that we liked using a little tab card. At the end of the tour, a mixoligist analyzed our preferences and concocted a gin cocktail specifically to meet our taste. Mine was incredible, despite containing basil, which I didn’t think I really liked. Photos below.
Our lunch stop was another great old English house turned hotel, Oakley Hall. I couldn’t resist a glamour shot. In the third photo below you will see the surrounding countryside. The yellow rape seed flowers (from which canola oil is made) are just starting to bloom. In a week or so the fields all over England will be blazing yellow.
Just down the road and after a short riverside hike, we came to Odiham Castle. Quite an historical ruin, if you can read the sign.
While I arrived by car and on foot, some other visitors floated down the little canal in style aboard this river boat, a common method of tourist travel all over England.
Another day and another historical site, The Vyne. The Vyne is a 16th-century country house outside Sherborne St John near Basingstoke in Hampshire. The Vyne was built for Lord Sandys, King Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain (sort of Vice President) in the Early 1500’s. Henry was said to be a regular weekend visitor (much to Sandy’s expense). Today renovations are going on, including a new $8 million re-roof!
The highlight of the property though are the gardens and lawns, which are extensive and lovingly cared for by a small army of volunteers.
The British love to hike and walking trails such as the one below criss-cross the countryside. They have an “open access” system which allows all citizens the right to cross private property (at designated areas). Weather doesn’t seem to deter them, nor age or infirmity. Separate trails are provided for equestrians ( for obvious reasons).
Time for breakfast, my crumpets are toasted (English muffins it seems are not so English after all and are hard to find).
Today it’s off to Suffolk, about three hours northeast, for a four day tour. More on that later