Friday, 10 November 2017

Enjoy a Victorian Christmas with Visit Isle of Wight



Visitors to the Isle of Wight can immerse themselves in a Victorian Christmas this winter with a variety of festive events and traditional entertainment from times gone by.

The Victorian era has seen a resurgence thanks to the recently released film Victoria & Abdul and ITV’s drama Victoria, so why not see how Christmas was celebrated by Queen Victoria and the Royal family in the Queen’s favourite home by the sea at Osborne? On selected dates in December, Christmas at Osborne offers festive guided tours to see the house ‘dressed’ for Christmas as it would have been during the Royal reign with Christmas trees, rooms decorated throughout and grand dining tables set for a festive feast.

For the first time ever, Osborne is opening its grounds after dark with a stunning fairytale of light, colour and sound. Enchanted Osborne takes place from 15-23 December. Follow an illuminated, festive garden trail swathed in strings of lanterns and fairy lights and emerge into a scene of a traditional fairground with a myriad of old-fashioned entertainment.

In addition, The Spectacular Brighstone Christmas Tree Festival, which takes place 7-10 December, sees local churches, pubs and community halls in and around Brighstone and Mottistone, come together to showcase over 200 ‘theme decorated’ trees.

The totally unique and free event includes Santa's Snowy Grotto, musical entertainment with concerts and carol singing, craft fairs, lace-making demonstrations, handbell ringing and an outdoor nativity pageant performed with local cast and musicians. The tree displays then continue in three locations from 11 December to 2 January, without the additional activities, at The Parish Church, the Isle of Wight Pearl and the Methodist Chapel.

David Thornton, CEO of Visit Isle of Wight, said:

'The Isle of Wight is a magical place to be during the festive season with its thatched pubs, spectacular coastal winter walks and quintessentially English villages.

'But the Island’s connections with Queen Victoria and its popularity amongst figures of note during the Victorian era – Edward Lear, Alfred Tennyson and Charles Dickens to name a few – means that visitors can step into England’s past.

'If you want to experience authentic or traditional Christmas celebrations, the Isle of Wight is the place to be.'

For additional seasonal fun this December, kids will love Santa’s Specials at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway with its Winter Wonderland, Christmas market, live music, entertainment and magic shows, all rounded off with a visit to see Father Christmas and a trip aboard a majestic steam train.

For those coming to the Isle of Wight to discover a Victorian Christmas, there is a huge choice of accommodation across the Island. Stay in cosy thatched cottages, seaside apartments, boutique B&Bs, luxury hotels, pooch-friendly pads or large, self-catering properties for big groups.

A two-night stay on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis at The Hambrough, Ventnor costs from £210 per person based on two people sharing an executive sea view room. Valid from 26 November to 21 December 2017, Tuesday to Saturday, the price includes return car ferry crossing from Southampton with Red Funnel.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Celebrate Boxing Day at Blenheim Palace



Discover a winter wonderland at Blenheim Palace this Boxing Day. For the first time the Palace, Park and Gardens will be open on 26 December and visitors are invited to enjoy the splendour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For the best colours

Discover beautiful winter sunsets over Blenheim Palace and the surrounding Parkland. Plus for those up early enjoy the muted colours on frosty morning walks and rich winter greens on the evergreen trees dotted around the Great Lake.

For bird lovers

Visitors can enjoy spotting flocks of winter birds including Snipe, Smew, majestic white ducks with incredible plumage and distinct black masks, and siskins, who bring a beautiful rich yellow colour to the landscape. Blenheim Palace Parkland is also home to many small members of the finch family, including the gregarious orange breasted Brambling, the noisy autumnal coloured Crossbill and the Redpoll.



For the best walks

Wrap up warm in the Blenheim Tweed Blankets, available from the East Courtyard Gift Shop, and head out to take the Lake and Cascade walk, perfect for wildlife spotting and frost tipped trees. From the Water Terraces, follow the signs for the Rose Garden, the Cascade and the Pump House. Follow the slope above the Cascade and continue along the edge of the lake to the Boathouse, then up the slope to the bottom of the Water Terraces.

This walk takes in some difficult terrain, so walking shoes are recommended. The Dam and Cascade has a walkway and viewing area.

For the best heritage

Discover the Column of Victory in all its frosty glory on chilly mornings and watch the sun come up over the Palace. The Column of Victory was erected between 1727 – 1730 and serves as a 134 ft high statement reflecting the military prowess of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, which earned him Blenheim Palace.

If it’s too cold...

Head indoors to take the guided State Rooms Tour where a passionate guide will take you around the opulent rooms of Blenheim Palace. Discover over 300 years of Marlborough family history in paintings, tapestries and incredible furniture. Finish off with a warm seasonal lunch in The Orangery Restaurant, which overlooks the private Italian Garden.

Boxing Day Lunch

If all the fresh air has made you peckish visit Blenheim Palace’s Orangery Restaurant for a special Boxing Day lunch, served between 12 – 4pm. Inspired by the festive season choose from either two or three courses, enjoy a twist on tradition. From Sloe gin cured local rainbow trout to Honey roast gammon pie, mash, plus if you have room for dessert try the Mulled wine trifle, pecan granola – delicious. Booking necessary.

Christmas Time Cream Tea Special at the Spa Valley Railway




Spend a crisp winters afternoon between Christmas and New Year taking a journey on the Spa Valley Railway and indulging in a Cream Tea! Travel on the 14:45 service from Tunbridge Wells West to Eridge on either the 30th, 31st December or 1st January and see the Winter High Weald countryside from the comfort of the beautifully decorated Bar Car 'Kate' whilst enjoying a wonderful Cream Tea.

Arrive at Tunbridge Wells West for 14:15 and take a look inside the Victorian Engine Shed which will still have Santa's Sleigh and a large Christmas Tree on display.

Board the train at 14:35 and enjoy a delicious cream tea while travelling from Tunbridge Wells West through Groombridge and High Rocks to Eridge Station on one of the railway’s heritage diesel trains.

Upon arrival at Eridge passengers can alight briefly and visit the Christmas Waiting Room and see our Steam Locomotive (which is on the back of the train from Tunbridge Wells West). Rejoin the train ready for the Steam Locomotive to take everyone back up the hill to Tunbridge Wells, arriving back at approximately 16:00.

For just £18 per adult or £9 per child enjoy the following:

Adults - 2x scones, clotted cream, jam and pot of tea plus train travel to Eridge and return in Bar Car 'Kate'.

Enjoy a glass of hot Mulled wine for just £3 on the day too!

Child - 1x scone, clotted cream, jam and carton of apple juice plus train travel to Eridge and return in Bar Car 'Kate'.

Passengers can choose to just travel on the day without enjoying a Cream Tea.

It’s also a Kids for a Quid & Mince Pie Specials Promotion at this time of year when children can travel for just £1 and every adult can enjoy a complimentary Mince Pie on the outward journey from Tunbridge Wells West! Our well stocked bar car 'Kate' will even have Mulled Wine on offer at just £3 per cup!

Book online for our Mince Pie Specials & Kids for a Quid here. Please note you do not have to book for this if you're booking. To book train tickets and for additional information about the Spa Valley Railway visit www.spavalleyrailway.co.uk

Spa Valley Railway, West Station, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN2 5QY

Telephone: 01892 537715

Monday, 6 November 2017

New exhibition to celebrate William Blake's relationship with Sussex comes to Petworth House

The Sea of Time and Space, 1821, Pen and ink and watercolour on paper

A major new exhibition at the National Trust’s Petworth House is the first of its kind to celebrate William Blake’s relationship with Sussex. Some of Blake’s greatest works from poetry to painting will be displayed at Petworth House in West Sussex this winter. This exhibition is the first to bring together for display many of the works that were inspired by his experience living in Sussex.

Sussex remains the only area outside of London that Blake ever lived, spending three years in Sussex from 1800 to 1803 with his wife Catherine, renting a cottage in Felpham that he described as ‘the sweetest spot on Earth’. Petworth will re-unite Blake’s works made during his time at Felpham along with later pieces that were informed by the landscapes of the Sussex coast and countryside.

The exhibition will include extraordinary works by Blake on loan from the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Tate. These will be combined with three paintings by Blake from the Petworth collection and a fourth on loan from the National Trust’s Arlington Court, Devon.

This new exhibition has particular significance to Petworth. Elizabeth Ilive, mistress and then wife to George Wyndham, the 3Earl of Egremont, commissioned Blake to paint The Last Judgement, 1808 and Satan calling up his Legions, c. 1800-1805, both of which are usually displayed in the mansion. The Last Judgement is of particular significance given that the watercolour likely features Elizabeth ascending to Heaven with her six children beside an artist that may represent Blake.

These two paintings will be displayed alongside a third painting by Blake, Characters from Spenser’s Faery Queen, 1825, purchased by the Earl of Egremont from the artist’s widow as a philanthropic gesture.

Petworth House and Gardens



The inclusion of Blake’s work at Petworth stands as the only example of his work within an English country house collection. This suggests the patrons had a forward thinking taste in art which led them to commission visionary paintings from an artist largely unheard of during his own lifetime, considered mad by his contemporaries and someone who had been tried for sedition. Elizabeth Ilive’s role also demonstrates a revolutionary woman of the period by taking an active role in commissioning artists.

Andrew Loukes, Exhibitions Manager, said: 'William Blake in Sussex is not only a subject of great local interest but also of national cultural significance, not least because the famous lines that were later adopted for the song Jerusalem were written in the county.

'It’s very exciting to be mounting the first exhibition to re-unite many of Blake’s Sussex-related works, especially at Petworth – the only great English country house to hold major paintings by the artist.'

An unmissable addition to the exhibition, on loan from the British Museum, will be the hand coloured relief etching of Blake’s illustrated epic poem Milton, of which only four are still in existence. Written and illustrated between 1804-1811, the preface to Milton, ‘And did those feet in ancient time’ was adopted for the anthem Jerusalem.

One of the illustrations for display from the poem depicts Blake’s conception of Milton; a spirit of John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, in the shape of a comet landing on the foot of Blake. A second illustration, of the cottage at Felpham, overtly references Blake’s experiences in Sussex, with the text ‘In Felpham I saw Visions of Albion.’

Blake’s The Sea of Time and Space, 1821, a watercolour of a stormy coastal scene will also be a part of the exhibition. Discovered at Arlington Court above a wardrobe in the housemaid’s pantry when the house was given to the National Trust in 1947, little is known of how – or why – it came to be there.

Alongside this will be a parallel exhibit showing the original drawings by the author and President of the Blake Society, Philip Pullman, made for the internationally acclaimed His Dark Materials books that echo John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. These chosen illustrations will feature as part of an immersive experience in the Red Room using projections, sound and text to connect these Miltonian works within the wider context of the exhibition.

Early booking is recommended for William Blake in West Sussex: Visions of Albion, at Petworth from 13 January to 25 March. Entry is by pre-booked, timed tickets only, which are on sale from 5 October from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth or 0344 249 1895. £12 for National Trust members or £16 for non-members, ticket includes entry to the gardens, parkland and selected rooms in the house.

The exhibition will take place between 13th Jan - 25 Mar 2018.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The LEGO® group to unveil world record build in Brighton



In May, LEGO was awarded a Guinness World Record for creating the world’s largest wind turbine made from LEGO bricks, and now the build is moving to its new home at Park Square, Brighton Marina.

Made with over 146,000 LEGO Bricks the impressive structure took 10-15 people per shift (with three shifts per day) and 600 man hours to complete!

The build was originally constructed in celebration of the LEGO Group reaching its target of 100% renewable energy capacity a whole three years early!

The wind turbine will stay in place at Park Square, Brighton Marina until early 2018.

LEGO supports all investment in renewable energy and we aim to engage with children on this very important issue. In fact, from the turbine’s new location, visitors will be able to see the new Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, the south coast’s first offshore wind farm. With 116 turbines standing at 140 metres to their blade tip, the wind farm will produce enough green electricity to power the equivalent of almost 350,000 homes, once it is fully operational in 2018. This is equivalent to around half the homes in the whole of Sussex.

Planet Crew Workshop - LEGO® Store, Churchill Square Shopping Centre


The LEGO Store at Churchill Square Shopping Centre will also be hosting a Build the Change workshop on Saturday 4th November, from 10am to 3pm. The team will be running a day of environmental-themed building fun where visitors will be encouraged to use their creativity and imagination to build a renewable energy machine that can capture the wind and provide energy to power their lives.

LEGO® Batman will be making a guest appearance on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th November between 11am and 2pm at the LEGO store where guests can come along to have their picture taken and take part in our free Make & Take event.

Brighton LEGO Store, Churchill Square Shopping Centre, Russell Place, Brighton, BN1 2TF

Saturday 4th November 11am – 2pm

Sunday 5th November 11am – 2pm

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

For a cracker of a Christmas show, head to Cornerstone this Christmas!



Cornerstone, in association with Goblin Theatre present The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Staring 40 young people from Didcot and the surrounding villages with a professional cast of 5 adults, 39 shows of the classic Christmas tale will take to the Cornerstone stage from 8th December.

The 234 seated auditorium will be transformed into a children’s toy shop which is set to wow audiences…

When Maria and her family turn up at a dusty old toyshop on Christmas Eve, full of raggedy old toys and a mysterious toymaker, they’d rather be anywhere else. But all is not as it seems- when everyone goes to bed the toys in the shop burst into life with music, singing and dancing. Maria meets the Nutcracker, a toy who has been cursed by the evil Mouse King. Together they must find a way to lift the curse and save Christmas for everyone.

Cornerstone’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is vividly brought to life in this new musical version. Performed by actor musicians and the ensemble cast, it promises to take you on magical Christmas story about the power of imagination, against the stunning backdrop of a Victorian toy shop.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is the first in house production produced by Cornerstone in association with Goblin Theatre, under the direction of the centre’s new Arts Director Darren Walter.

To book tickets to see The Nutcracker and the Mouse King this Christmas, you can book online or via the box office on 01235 515144. Family ticket (of 4, must include one child) only £50. Additional tickets £15, £13.50 concessions and £12 members. Performances even on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Restoration Reveals Rare Coffer's Hidden Secrets at Blenheim Palace

View of Blenheim Palace Boulle coffer showing hidden drawers 

A rare 18th century coffer, used to hold jewellery and other precious objects, has revealed its hidden secrets following a restoration programme at Blenheim Palace.

Designed by André Charles Boulle in around 1685, the Louis XIV coffer is among the finest examples of a process known as marquetry which was pioneered by the French master cabinetmaker.

In 2009 a pair of similar Boulle Louis XIV coffers were sold for more than £2.6m at Christie’s.

'Boulle was considered the ‘most skilled artisan in Paris’ and was awarded the title of cabinetmaker and sculptor to King Louis XIV in 1672,” said Blenheim Palace’s Kate Ballenger.

'Our coffer is believed to have been among a number of items purchased by the 9th Duke of Marlborough after his marriage to Consuelo Vanderbilt in 1895.

'Due to the process and materials used it is very fragile and susceptible to environmental change over the centuries. As a result some sections of the marquetry had begun to separate and we took the decision to bring in a specialist restorer,' she added.

In Boulle Marquetry, thin sheets of brass, pewter and tortoiseshell are sandwiched together and the design, placed on top, is cut out with a fretsaw, providing identically shaped patterns in each material.

The separated pieces are combined to produce a design of brass on a background of tortoiseshell.

During the cleaning and restoration process, restorer Ludovic Potts was able to unpick a section of the coffer which had been remained locked for decades.

'Originally the coffer was designed to hold jewellery and other precious objects,' said Kate. 'For as long as anyone can remember the upper section of the coffer has remained locked as the key had been mislaid.

'When Ludovic was able to finally open the upper lid of the coffer he discovered Boulle had created a series of secret compartments hidden behind hinges where items of particular value could be concealed.

'The newly-opened upper section of the coffer reveals Boulle’s extraordinary craftsmanship in its original state; although sadly all the secret drawers were empty,' she added.

Assistant house manager Carmen Alvarez opens the Boulle coffer at Blenheim Palace 


Blenheim Palace’s coffer is one of three, the other two are in the Getty Museum, known as ‘du Grand Dauphin’ which have been traditionally associated with the marriage of the Grand Dauphin in 1680. The Blenheim example most closely fits an entry in the inventory of the collections of the Grand Dauphin in 1689.