I’m sure somebody out there may well tell me that I’m wrong, but I reckon there are thirteen stations in London that can be regarded as a main line terminus.
London’s railway network has evolved over many years and is more complicated than you might think – but I’m sticking to thirteen.
Four of those appear on the original Monopoly board, and Liverpool St is one of them. (If you can’t remember the other three, they were King’s Cross, Marylebone and Fenchurch St).
It’s the terminus for train companies that operate mainly to the north-east of the capital to counties such as Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, and is the third busiest in the UK after Waterloo and Victoria.
The statistics for 2015/16 show that sixty six and a half million entries/exits were recorded, and that doesn’t include the underground which has four lines converging underneath the main line station (The Circle, Hammersmith & City, Central and Metropolitan Lines).
It was originally built in 1875 as the terminus for the Great Eastern Railway and extended in 1895.
During an air raid on 13th June 1917 the station was hit by three bombs, two of which exploded, killing 162 people and injuring more than 400. It was the deadliest single raid in Britain during the First World War.
I would hazard a guess that the majority of first time visitors to the City of London want to see St Paul’s Cathedral more than anything else, and it’s not hard to see why.
This magnificent structure built by Sir Christopher Wren, is more than just another church. It’s an architectural delight with a host of famous people buried within its walls – but more than that, for British people at least, it’s a landmark that is remembered for defying the might of the Luftwaffe during the blitz.
Before making your way over there it would be useful to know what to expect as it’s very different from Westminster Abbey.
Whereas Westminster Abbey is medieval in origin with gothic additions, St Paul’s is 17th century and has been described as English Baroque which seems a fair description to me even though I’m no expert on architectural terms.
Many people will know that Sir Christopher Wren was hired to re-build St Paul’s after the Great Fire of London, but perhaps not so many people will know that the Norman church that stood here until 1666 was one of the biggest in Europe, if not the world, with a spire that reached close to 150m high. It wasn’t just the height of the church that made it impressive but also its length.
The tradition of making a garland for the Tudor Hall at Cotehele House only started in the 1950s, but has since become a firm annual favourite at Christmastime.
People come from miles around to see this 18 metre (60 foot) long decoration that starts its life in the Cut Flower Garden at Cotehele. The seeds are sown in February, the flowers cut in the summer, and then hung in the potting shed to dry until the Autumn.
The aim is to get around 30,000 stems, but it will depend on the conditions which can vary from year to year. This year (2017) they were able to cultivate 32,000.
In early November a 12mm diameter rope is laid out on the floor where bunches of evergreen pittosporum are attached and then hoisted up to the ceiling where it is hung in swags.
The flowers are then cut, sorted, and placed individually amongst the evergreen.
Apparently, the process from planting the seeds to the last flower being attached involves staff and volunteers working an equivalent amount of hours to one full time employee a year.
A pleasant 10-15 minute walk from the quay alongside Morden stream leads to Cotehele Mill. As part of the Cotehele Estate run by the National Trust (NT), you’ll need a ticket to see the mill in action.
If your legs aren’t up to it, there’s a small shuttle bus that runs between the mill, the quay and the house. It’s a useful service, for which a small donation is respectfully asked for.
This working mill is in a picturesque setting and a worthwhile detour from the house and quay.
An overshot water wheel is fed by a leat which is controlled by a man made weir and sluice gate. This leat also feeds a modern hydroelectric turbine.
The estate at Cotehele covers some 1,300 acres and I’m assuming that time will preclude you from seeing everything, and so it’s worth explaining what’s here.
The gardens are an obvious thing to include. They’re not as old or as extensive as some other National Trust properties, but worth taking a look at all the same. The nearest ones to the house are the terraces below the East Range, and the Upper Garden with its lily pond.
Behind the Upper Garden is an area which is used to grow the flowers that are specifically cut and used for the Christmas Garland, and behind that again are a couple of orchards which continue the tradition of growing different varieties of apples for the production of cider.
What I particularly like about Cotehele House is the way that the combination of buildings sit harmoniously together.
From 1485 until 1562 successive members of the Edgcumbe family built this complex out of local slate and granite, and even with Stuart and Victorian modifications, nothing really changed the overall exterior Tudor appearance.
The way that the house and its associated buildings seem to blend unobtrusively into the surrounding Cornish countryside is one of its main endearing features.
Entry into the house is through the Gatehouse Tower, Hall Court, and straight into the most distinctively Tudor room of the house – The Hall. Armour and swords decorate the walls, but the highlight of this room comes every Christmas when the Hall is bedecked with dried flowers known as the Cotehele Garland.
The Hall is undoubtedly the most impressive room in the house, but it’s also worth making sure that you don’t miss the kitchen and the chapel with its unusual turret clock, both of which are of Tudor origin. There’s no point in going into the details of all the other rooms, some of which are quite dark, partly due to the tapestries that seem to hang on so many of the walls.
The National Trust (NT) are responsible for looking after a multitude of properties throughout the West Country, and Cotehele is without doubt one of my favourites.
The estate at Cotehele includes the Tudor House, Gardens, Mill, Estate and the Quay, and the Quay is the first thing that most people will encounter.
The Estate has been in the Edgcumbe family since 1353 when William Edgcumbe married into the de Cotehele family. Anybody who is familiar with this part of the world may well have heard about ( or been to) Mount Edgcumbe, which was the family’s main home for many years.
As you can probably imagine, Cotehele Quay would have been a hive of activity in years gone by, not just in its involvement with the local mining industry, but also with market gardening.
The lush landscape along the river valley suited the production of flowers and fruit, such as apples, strawberries and cherries, and so it’s not surprising to find limekilns on the quay. Coal from Bristol, and limestone from Plymouth, would have been brought upriver to be turned into lime for fertilising the fields.
Christmas 2015 saw Coleton Fishacre venture into the festive spirit for the first time and throw open its doors to show people how the D’Oyly Carte family would have enjoyed their Christmas in the 1920s and 30s.
In today’s modern age it all seems a bit low key which of course was how it was meant to be. To brighten things up a bit the gardens are illuminated, but don’t expect to see an extravagant sound and light show. Apart from anything else it wouldn’t be appropriate anyway.
The walk around the garden will probably take around 45 minutes or so, but that doesn’t include a mulled wine stop at the gazebo.
If the house is worth taking a look at, then the gardens of Coleton Fishacre are even more so. These gardens are my favourite in this part of the world, not only because they’re appealing and well designed, but their proximity to the sea makes them even more enchanting.
You would need a good couple of hours to do these gardens justice, and even then you wouldn’t see everything, so I’m going to highlight the things you shouldn’t miss.
There are a few routes that can be taken but I’m going to suggest taking the most obvious one that follows the stream down through the valley to the cliffs above Pudcombe Cove.
There is a wheelchair/pushchair friendly path that follows the stream downhill, but remember that going down also means that you have to come back up, and if mobility is a problem then it’s probably best to return the same way, as the other alternative routes aren’t quite so easy to negotiate.
The main path starts from outside the house but don’t miss the Seemly Terrace and Rill Garden. If you follow this route it joins up with the main path anyway a bit further on. Humidity is high in this 30 acre garden which is ideal for moisture loving plants, and as you continue down through the valley luxurious ferns and Gunnera soon come into view.
At the bottom of the valley there is a gate which leads out onto the coast path above Pudcombe Cove which is as far as the gardens go.
The National Trust owns several properties in South Devon and they all have something to commend them, but I think my favourite has to be Coleton Fishacre.
It’s a bit out of the way, but that’s one of the attractions of this estate that includes a magnificent garden that sweeps down to the sea and a house that evokes the bygone jazz age of the 1920s.
The man behind the creation of Coleton Fishacre was Rupert D’Oyly Carte, whose father, Richard, was the producer of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas.
Rupert, who incidentally was also the inspiration for P.G Wodehouses’s Rupert Psmith, inherited the family business including the Savoy Hotel and Claridge’s in London.
It was on a sailing trip between Brixham and Dartmouth with his wife Dorothy, that he saw the potential of the valley above Pudcombe Cove for building a home on the coast.
It’s not difficult to see why they chose this spot, and in 1923 he set about building Coleton Fishacre which took three years to finish.