Our Day in the Fens
8th June 2019
This Saturday we had the National Trust property of Anglesey Abbey in our sights. Our walk, there-and-back, through the fens, between Waterbeach Station and Anglesey Abbey, on the edge of the village of Lode, was about 10 miles in total. We braved the fen weather in the morning to have an interesting cultural day out at the "Abbey", with its artistic interior and its fine gardens. Our walk was ably planned and led by Julie, to whom many thanks for an enjoyable and invigorating day out.
Anglesey Abbey - South Front.
We Arrive in Waterbeach
Reaching Waterbeach from King's Cross was hassle-free and only took 1 hour 1 minute. King's Cross Station is known not only for its distinctive architecture, (the main-line section, with its glazed twin roofs, opened in 1852), but also for its "Harry Potter" Platform 9¼ (a crowd-puller today as on most other days). Our journey to Waterbeach by "Great Northern" was direct and non-stop to Cambridge.
The main, twin-roofed, train shed at King's Cross dates back to 1852,
but the trains have come a long way since the age of steam!
Our Morning Walk
As we set out from Waterbeach it was raining steadily. The advice was to eschew umbrellas but to rely on waterproof jackets; the gusts of wind across the fens would be enough to blow any umbrella over the low-lying - and in places marshy - fens, only to land upturned in one of the numerous small ditches and canals. We started out along the River Cam and made a right turn at the "Bottisham Lode" pumping station. From here we headed "almost directly" to the village of Lode itself. Here we turned off in to Mill Street to reach Lode Mill. The Anglesey Abbey Visitor Centre was a short way beyond the mill. The weather did not encourage photography on our outward walk, but we made up for this on our return to Waterbeach later in the afternoon.
Lode Mill - in the rain!
Anglesey Priory was built by a community of Augustinian Cannons during the reign of Henry I (1100 to 1135). Henry VIII dissolved the Priory in 1535. Around 1600, a certain Thomas Hobson acquired the Priory, converting it to a country house; he changed the name from "Priory" to the much grander "Abbey". The 19th century saw significant alterations by the Abbey's then owner.
Two brothers, Huttleston (1896–1966) and Henry (1900–1973) Broughton, bought the site in 1926 and made improvements to the house. They were the sons of one Urban Broughton (1857–1929), who had made a fortune in the mining and railway industries in America. After the death of his father, Huttleston subsequently became the 1st Lord Fairhaven. The two brothers, Huttleston and Henry, promised to sell their share of the Anglesey Estate, should either one get married. Henry married in 1932, so Huttleston became the sole owner of Anglesey Abbey. He never married, but made house and garden into what visitors see today. When he died, he left Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust.
Ground Floor - Entrance
Lord Fairhaven's Coat of Arms
proudly sits above the doorway.
We are welcomed by a lady wearing a servant's uniform.
The entrance corridor leads to the spiral staircase at the end.
First Floor - Living Room
The living room shows how the 30s style of gracious living
was incorporated into what was originally a Jacobean Mansion.
The Jacobean-style fireplace is surrounded by the carpets and soft furnishings of the 30s.
The round table is laid for tea and biscuits. "Objects d'art" are everywhere!
Second Floor - Library & Bedrooms
A wide spiral staircase lined with tapestries and paintings
takes us further to the second floor.
More tapestries and furniture.
This is the "Best Bedroom".
Judging by the ornate "bed header" it could well earn that appellation!
The small tapestry depicting the royal coat of arms is also worthy of note.
Out on the corridor linking the bedrooms and the library, we see the Horse Guards' Parade modelled in cork - cork from wine bottles?
The table looks ornate.
From the "Horse Guards' Parade" we can look out
through the leaded windows onto the South Lawn.
Here's part of the Library. There are leather-bound books from the 19th and 20th centuries,
and many "more modern" volumes from the 20s and 30s. Apparently, these books were read by their owner - well, he would mark the books he had read. The leather-bound books are prone to suffering the ravishes of time and central heating, so the NT are giving them conservation treatment, as explained in the library.
Here's another "luxury bedroom". The bed has two ornately carved "tail" posts, ...
... and an ornately carved head board.
In the corridor we see two oil paintings of ...
... what appear to be alpine scenes from northern Italy.
From the corridor we can look out on to the gardens ...
... and the other parts of the house.
In the corridor on the second floor, we see this painting of some of the well-known British birds.
The painting shows that nature can be varied and colourful,
even if these birds are in an unnatural juxtaposition.
The bird world is also represented in this Chinoiserie cabinet.
Our well-known friend, the Green Woodpecker, also puts in an appearance.
A stylized yet colourful floral still-life graces a corner of the corridor.
Yet another bedroom.
We are back in the library.
The mirrors on either side of the window at one end, give a sense of space.
Richard III stares pensively from his painting at visitors.
There are more paintings of British monarchs, and a pane of one of the windows bears the signatures of some past and present members of the Royal Family.
The fine fireplace encourages readers to have
a comfortable and reflective read of some of the many volumes.
Here's another view of the Library.
Ground Floor - Dining Room
The oldest part of the house is thought to be the dining room on the ground floor. The dining room looks as if it might have been the refectory - albeit much restored - of the original mediaeval priory.
The arched ceiling is brought to prominence by the carefully devised lighting.
However, the stone floor may have given diners cold feet while they enjoyed their dinners.
The table is laid ...
... and dinner will be served.
The ornate and richly carved cupboard is 15th century and came from Germany.
It may originally have served the function of a Tudor court cupboard.
On one side of the dining room is a silver (probably plated!) model of a ship used by Christopher Columbus on one of his four world voyages.
The fender in the massive fireplace ...
... proudly bears the coat of arms of Lord Fairhaven.
The Abbey Grounds are vast and we would have required a whole afternoon to do them justice. The Formal Garden had just been newly laid out and was waiting for its first flowers to grow. We therefore concentrated on the rose garden and the nearby South Lawn. From the South Lawn we could take in the south front of Anglesey Abbey.
Anglesey Abbey - Side View
Anglesey Abbey - South Front
Anglesey Abbey - South Front
Anglesey Abbey - Rose Garden
June is a good month for the roses!
Anglesey Abbey - Rose Garden
Anglesey Abbey - South Front seen from the South Lawn
Return Walk to Waterbeach
After mid-day, the weather had improved, and by the time (about 15:30) at which we left Anglesey Abbey, the rain had also left. It was therefore a good opportunity to take some pictures to remind us of the vast, seemingly unending, open spaces, that are the fens of Cambridgeshire. We took the same path back, but were able to absorb some new impressions which I present here photographically. Thatched cottages, water courses, the River Cam and Dutch gables were all ingredients for our photographic essay.
Before we get to the end of Lode's Mill street, we are welcomed by this typically English thatched cottage, proudly displaying a colourful array of flowers.
We take in the open spaces criss-crossed by water courses.
There are houses nestling behind stretches of water and reeds.
At the Bottisham Lode Pumping Station, we make a 90° left hand turn on to
the bank of the River Cam. Waterbeach is not too far away.
Swans feel at home here.
Many stretches of the River Cam are navigable.
The River Cam is home to canal boats and motor boats.
Cam Conservancy's Waterbeach office, with its distinctive Dutch gable,
welcomes us back to Waterbeach.
The Dutch gable proudly declares 1842 as the year the house was built.
The church of Saint John the Evangelist has a history which goes back to at least the 13th century. By 1299 it had received its present name. However, there were extensive Victorian restorations, mainly between 1848 and 1878. Despite this, the church is Grade II* listed. Just to add, we visited the church because we had time before the next train, and we thought it a good idea to a see a bit more of the local history.
Saint John the Evangelist, Waterbeach
One of the floor tiles in the church made a colourful note
on which to end our Saturday walk.
In a way this was a good omen, for our journey back to King's Cross
was fast (about 1 hour) and hassle-free.
Thank you, Julie, for suggesting and leading this walk. Thank you to all for your company. Our weather in the morning was a bit challenging - I mean, wind and rain are especially challenging when out in the fens. However, by the afternoon the rain had cleared and the sun started to make a cautious, if timid, appearance. We all had good exercise! We all saw and learnt new things. That's what life is about!
This walk was arranged as part of the programme of events for the Central London Outdoor Group (CLOG).
On this web page, the picture of the stylized flowers in the chapter headers is from the Microsoft® clip-art libraries, supplied with some versions of MS Office®.