Easter Monday. A day out is in order. The weather is fine and sunny. New car in good order. Full tank of petrol. National Trust membership up-to-date. We decide from considering the options to go to Basildon Park for a visit. Having viewed several maps on-line, one being Google Maps, we decide it's not much more than 60 miles so we leave at around 9.15. It's no point getting there too early as it's not all open until 11.00. We drive towards Buckingham and then on towards the A34, a route we know well as we drive south regularly to visit the in-laws who live in Bournemouth. On Saturday we had hoped to drive up the M1 and visit a National Property, Caulke Abbey or another the other side of Derby, but when we get onto the Motorway we soon discovered a high volume of traffic and on actually getting on to the carriageway that there are roadworks all the way north past Newport Pagnall services and that you can't drive more than 50 miles per hour (or aren't supposed to.) It takes us around and hour and a half to get as far as the turning off for Weedon and Leamington Spa so we decide that we're not going to get much further and won't get to our destination this side of midday so we come off the Motorway near Coventry and come back across country and back through Buckingham where we drop in to the newly opened Aldi branch and do a shop for the evening's meal and then return to Milton Keynes and home.
Yesterday's trip was considerably better, but we were supposed to get on the M40 and then onto the A34, but due to roadworks we couldn't get onto the Motorway and instead had to make a diversion towards Oxford and find the A34. It seems that the road network is currently plagued by a good deal of roadworks at the moment. I think if we had been altered earlier it might have saved us a good deal of time and effort and not a fair amount of frustration. Unfortunately you don't learn these sort of deal until after the event.
Yet another great mass of roadwork activity on a vast roundabout when we come off the A34 towards Reading, which means we have to circle the confounded roundabout again so that we are facing in the right direction for Basildon Park, but as a result it is a worthwhile journey as the scenery is very pleasant. We eventually arrive at our destination to find that the sunshine has brought out a large crowd of visitors. I think this may be due in large part to the fact that Basildon Park is one of the locations for filming of the I.T.V. drama series Downton Abbey. I have to admit to having only watched one episode and then I wasn't immediately drawn to watching further episodes as it's not really the sort of programme I enjoy. Probably actually better to watch via catch-up as there are adverts around every 20 minutes or so and who wants to sit through endless ads for sofas, double-glazing and shampoo? The fact that it's so full of advertising is enough to put any one off watching. The acting is very wooden and the storylines are cliched and full of anachronisms. It is a pleasant place to wander around and take in the scenery. On arrival we make for the cafeteria but then discover an extremely long queue of similarly hungry and by now quite frustrated visitors. It takes us a good 20 minutes to reach the counter, make our selection of sandwiches and lattes and pay and then find a vacant table to sit and eat. We wander into the garden to find a lot of families enjoying the sunshine and the views across the valley from the garden a truly spectacular and you can clearly see why someone would choose to build a property in such a location. We then enter the house and wander around the various rooms and in particular those which are used as interiors for not only Downton Abbey but the recent film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as well as several other film such as The Duchess. The National Trust staff in each room are extremely knowledgeable and it's interesting to hear from them about the history of the house and the families who used to live in the house. Having finished our tour of the house we leave and go back to the stable block near the carpark which is where we came in and find the shop to buy the handbook about the house as well a to buy ice creams which we take to eat sitting at some picnic tables conveniently placed near the carpark. We get back to the car and drive home which seems to take less time than the journey out.