Monday, 20 August 2007

A wild goose chase in the Chilterns

I always have mixed feelings about go away to visit friends and relatives. Going away is fantastic, but reminds me of how much there is to do at home. So I’m back now, amongst my muddle, dreaming of house extensions and minimalist living.

We have just been to stay with Brian’s sister and her bloke who live in the Chilterns. They are child free (by choice) and have just extended their lovely flint cottage which now includes three bedrooms and an upstairs bathroom. They live a tidy, orderly existence without clutter and the new bathroom has a minimalist hotel look.

Hannah and Rosie loved it, of course, especially the bunk beds they shared, and kept telling me which bits from the house they would like to have in our home. Sadly we don’t have the sort of income to buy such gorgeous things (like their lovely aubergine Aga and hand-built maple kitchen, for example), but I can pinch ideas and colour schemes for free.

Our visit, which was a bit of a last minute decision, was really to look at cars. We need to replace our estate and sadly defunct old Land Rover for just a single 4x4. I’m embarrassed to say that I need it for the school run, but I do! We are surrounded by rivers and a number of times it has been touch and go to be able to get to the village and pick up the girls from school. The estate struggles and I have repeatedly got it stuck in the verges, usually when forced to pull onto soft ground by other 4x4 drivers, so it is also part self-preservation, part necessity and part ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’!

But first of all before car viewings we visited Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, a French chateau-style manor built in the late 1800s by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to display his art collection. It is famous for its parterre garden and Rococo aviary and has wine cellars containing thousands of bottles of Rothschild wine.

We picnicked in the garden, admired the gorgeous parterre and the girls had a lovely time playing on the new woodland play area. We had the obligatory ice cream sitting in the sunshine on a wooden bench in the garden watching the water dancing in the fountain. It is a beautiful place and we plan to return in the future to fully explore the house and grounds.

But we had to leave the Manor to go and view cars. We drove back into Aylesbury, found the correct car sales and immediately wished we hadn’t bothered. The car had four bald tyres and the spare was perished. The radio looked as if it had been jemmied out with a crow bar and another fitted with bits of foam sticking out. The clock didn’t work and there was a can of Diet Coke in the drinks holder. We said ‘no thanks’ politely, and left.

The next car had weird gouges out of the rear passenger doors – as if it had been used to transport pianos or something. We imagined little fingers picking at the gouges, spilling the filling, and imagined the repairs bill. We left.

The third was located in Chalfont St Peter. It was 4.45pm on a Friday afternoon and we were heading towards London. Were we mad? We arrived. The car was obviously an import. We left.

Cars could wait, so we spent Saturday amusing ourselves and the children in the Lacey Green Maize Maze. It is a genius idea, even in the rain. We collected our map and quiz sheet and rushed about in the maize losing ourselves and finding the clues. Then in the early evening we went to the local pub, The Whip Inn, and had a fantastic meal. It was walking distance from Brian’s sister’s home so I availed myself of a couple of pints of the local brew. Lovely!

We dragged ourselves away on Sunday and headed home via Brian’s Mum’s flat in Langley. Hannah and Rosie were fascinated by the planes taking off at Heathrow – the same planes which would later fly over the Preselis on their way to America. We had one more car to see, with the registration COO, but a black one not a purple one, so that wasn’t quite right either. We pointed our trusty estate car westwards on the M4 and headed on home in the wake of the planes we had just seen heading into the sky.


  1. Beautiful photos, esp that first one.

  2. Don't you just hate car-shopping? I certainly do! Aside from the car business, it sounds as though you had a good time - all the elements were, gardens, historic sites, restaurant meals and lovely children. Great photos!

  3. Sounds like you had a lovely time ... shame about the cars though. Hopefully something will come along soon. The photos are lovely. I thought for a minute that the first one was Brian's sister's ... I was thinking wow they really are rich ... then I realised my mistake. Doh!

  4. Aylesbury. Brings back memories. I lived there on Hawkslade Park Estate for 4 years in a one bedroom flat and paid through the nose for it, in those days when rates were at their peak and many experienced negative equity - including me! It was a nice estate though, probably twice as big now. We made some nice friends who we didn't keep in touch with! Then 2 years after moving back to Manchester, we got divorced!!

    Not to worry. I never visited the Manor. Your photo's are beautiful. I do belive Antiques Roadshow did an episode there once, quite a lot time ago.

    Crystal xx

  5. OOoo Ooooo come and visit us there is a Landrover garage quite close to us . . . rushes off to see if there is anything suitable.

    Failing that you can have our old Renegade Jeep . . . er but it doesn't go and it is . . um . . very rusty.

  6. We have friends who chosen not to have children and have lots of money to burn but I wouldn't swap the kids for an Aga (not unless it was a particularly good one... only joking kids). Oh what a problem cars are - I hate thinking about them and yes, can vouch for the fact that you do need a 4x4 living where you are -if you need a witness!

  7. As you may have seen from the comment I left on the home page, I got married at Waddesdon! In the old dairy, which is licensed for weddings, and not quite as grand as the main house, but still nice! My parents moved to Amersham from north London when I was 18, and though I was mainly living away from home in those days, that area still feels very familiar and homey. I really know what you mean about the car - there are some quite deep fords around here too, and most of the children's friends seem to live on farms, when I had my little hatchback the suspension got ruined within about 3 months.

  8. Lovely pictures ..have just been down to previous blog as well which i had missed....that has gone on my list to see in Wales!
    have just spent a weekend car shopping as well...I had the urge to say.....'I'm bored' but smiled instead!!

  9. Oh those planes fly over us too. We have just had to trade in our old landrover too, we now have a gleaming second hand one, but I can't relax driving it, not until I am completely confident in it and the 'newness' has worn offf, and I can relax once again.
    Holiday sounded good, and it is always refreshing to arrive home after a break. Posie

  10. Hello! Thanks for popping by mine - I recognise that curvy statue, I admired it's - realism - on the Purplecoo site. I am off to 'virtually' investigate this pub you mentioned now...maybe I can persuade my other half to take me out for the day.

  11. Thank you for the recommendations of folks I could see about my shoulder, they are much appreciated.

  12. we seem to spend hours having the car conversation. have a 4x4 which has just cost us an arm and a leg to have fixed. keep mulling over the old landrover solution but still need to drive long distances for work and family. Aaargh.
    lovely pictures as usual.

  13. That place is amazing, I truly thought it was french. Brave you with the car purchase - I hate hate hate buying cars so we tend to hang onto ours until they blow up on the motorway (has happened to the last three....maybe we;re doing something wrong).
    Maize mazes great fun - so James chimes up from behind me.
    Don't feel guilty about the 4x4 - there are some places where you simply have to have them....we have the same thing - some roads impassable without in winter. Just wish the government would realise that we're not gas-guzzling out of choice here in the country. Grr. jxx
    PS - had lovely email from julieeirios....try to persuade her to join up!

  14. Yep I'm still wedded to my old Land Rover Discovery and it costs so much to keep on the road but I have yet to find a decent replacement - thought we'd go down the estate route but cannot bring myslef to do it....


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