We left London on Tuesday afternoon and headed to Shenfield in Essex where we were off to stay with our friends Denise & Gary who we had met earlier in the year in Portugal. We had caught up with them for dinner in London in June and they had said that if we were back in London on our trip to come and stay. It was great to see them again and Denise cooked us a lovely meal on Tuesday night. Their son Nick, who we had also met in Portugal, lives at home still so we were able to catch up with him too.
On the Wednesday I was catching the train to see my friend Kim who happened to be over here staying with her Mum in Whitstable. Kim is originally from Whitstable, has a house in NZ and works in the Australian outback – some people lead complicated lives : ) I hadn’t seen Kim since she had been back in NZ in February so I was looking forward to seeing her.
Meanwhile Gary and Nick had lined up a couple of busy days for Steve.
Nick is a golf pro so first up was a game at the golf club where he works which is a private golf club – Centurion Club. It is located in St Albans and was designed by Simon Gidman. Apparently Gary beat both Nick and Steve. The weather turned out quite nice but Steve said it was very wet under foot.
That evening they caught the train to Stratford where they had Pizza Express for dinner – sounds like it was a shame we hadn’t discovered this place earlier. Next stop West Ham Football Stadium where they had tickets to watch the international friendly between Argentina and Croatia. Lionel Messe was playing so Steve got to see the best football player on the planet in the flesh. Argentina won the match 2 – 1.
The next day Nick had to work so Gary took Steve to play golf at his golf club – Thorndon Park. It sounds like they had another great day with Gary taking the money off Steve again.
Thorndon Park Golf Club’s course was created in 1920 by Harry Shapland Colt on a deer park dating back to the 1580s. The deer park, already rich with oaks from the 16th century – some of which survive to this day – was enhanced with oaks and chestnuts planted in the 1730s by the eighth Lord Petre, a noted botanist.
The Hall we now see, designed by James Paine and completed in 1770, was the home of the Petre family until 1919. Here, George III was entertained in 1778; here, Lancelot “Capability” Brown laid out a park that was the finest in the county; here, some of the great families of England stayed during the deer-hunting season and joined the Petre family in roller skating in the ballroom.
Ravaged by fire in 1878, Thorndon Hall was offered a new lease of life in 1919 when a group of businessmen saw the grounds as the perfect place for a golf course and for developing a residential estate similar to the one planned for St George’s Hill at Weybridge. St George’s Hill had chosen Harry Colt as its architect – and he was selected to design Thorndon Park golf course.
With the onset of the Second World War and the subsequent constraints of the Green Belt laws, the plans for an estate never materialised. But the course did. It was opened on 1 July 1920 and it has thrived ever since.
The East Wing of Thorndon Hall was leased to the Club in 1921 and, by the late 1940s, the Club had also bought the chapel within the Hall, which was converted into the mixed lounge.
Over a period of time, the Club bought the 240 acres the course occupied and, in 1968, Thorndon Hall. With the building of a new clubhouse in 1974, the Hall was sold the next year to a building company which restored the facade of the Palladian mansion to its former glory and turned the building into apartments with views over the course.
It was a right sport billy week for Steve – rugby on Saturday, tennis and table tennis on Monday, golf and football on Wednesday and golf on Thursday – how lucky is he : )
Meanwhile I caught the train on Wednesday morning to Whitstable. Kim met me off the train, first stop was the Windy Cafe where we had a lovely coffee and pumpkin soup for lunch. Kim has been having a few issues with her pelvis etc… so has been going to physio in Canterbury. It was a family outing with her aunt & uncle Pete and Sandra driving us to Canterbury – Pete pointed out all the points of interest as we drove along. The physio is based at the Kent Cricket Club so while Kim was in at physio we had a cup of tea overlooking the Kent cricket ground.
Kim cooked us a lovely meal for dinner and we sat around chatting and laughing all evening with her Mum. We indulged in some ginger wine which was very nice : ) A week before I was going to Whitstable Kim was messaging me saying her Mum was busy making up my bed – I messaged back and said “she does know I’m coming next week?” She did but she likes to be organised – I had all sorts of fury friends lined up to keep me company that night. Bless : )
The next day we had a wander around Whitstable which is a seaside town located on the north coast of Kent and the first seaside town to the south of London, in south-east England – it is very quaint. I have been here a couple of times before but it is always good to visit the “centre of the Universe” as Kim refers to it : )
After saying goodbye to Kim I caught the train back to Shenfield. Gary & Steve picked me up from the station and we went back and caught up on the past two days happenings. We then went to The Plough for dinner which is one of Gary & Denise’s local spots. It was very nice and we enjoyed a lovely meal and many laughs.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stays in Shenfield and Whitstable where we were made very welcome and felt very spoilt. Denise and Gary will be visiting us in NZ in January so we look forward to showing them the beautiful Hawkes Bay and spoiling them. Kim will also be back in NZ for a few weeks over the summer so can’t wait to catch up with her again too.