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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A whistlestop day trip to Stamford


If you love to look at mellow limestone buildings, and feel as if you should be wearing a long dress and a bonnet, then look no further. Stamford in Lincolnshire is the place to visit. You've probably seen glimpses of it though in so many period dramas on television.
 
It's a quirky place, oh so historical, with more than six hundred listed buildings and a number of fine churches, including five mediaeval ones.
 
Reminders of the past are all around you, from the 15th century Brownes Almshouses, to one of the oldest provincial theatres in the country, and only a mile away, the beautiful, and awe inspiring Burghley Hall, a triumph of an Elizabeth house with stunning gardens.
 
But this visit to Stamford, on a gloomy wet day earlier this week, wasn't about sightseeing, it was to lunch and to shop with Susie, Fiona and Laura.
 
Now, if there's one thing Laura and I love to do, that's to mooch about in search of antiques ,so our first port of call was to the St Martins Antiques Centre. To step out of the rain into somewhere with over fifty dealers displaying their treasures under one roof, is a joy.

The siren call of the kitchenalia attracted me like a homing signal. Laura got lost in the silver section...she's a collector of silver made by her great grandfather.
 
No such luck on this day but she did come away with two fine silver ladles, after we'd managed to drag her away out of this cutlery corner.
 
 
 
By now, we were feeling peckish, and our lunch stop was at The George Hotel just down the hill. I cannot pay a visit to Stamford without nipping into the George, whether just for a drink or a snack.
 
 
 

It's incredible to think that the origins of this  old coaching inn began over a hundred years before William the Conqueror beat King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

four to five hundred years later, the neighbouring Hospital of St John and the house of the Holy Speulchre became part of the George .

The courtyard is stunning at any time of the year. Formerly a cloistered quadrangle belonging to the old church, in high summer, there's nothing nicer than having an afternoon tea here, amongst the profusion of hanging baskets and containers all packed with flowers.

Last week Christmas trees were already in situ here and fairy lights were uplifting in the gloom.

 
 
 




I also always have to have a peek at what is known as the Monastery garden. Past its summer best, even in November it's a charming, restful place



 
My friends Tessa and David had their wedding reception here a number of years ago, and in my mind's eye I remember the garden filled with guests,waiting staff weaving expertly through the crowds with huge trays of canapés to the sounds of popping prosecco corks and  a chamber quartet playing .
 


But this was years later, a winter day ,and we were hungry so we went straight through to the Garden Room. Wine of course, and lunch...







The wild mushroom risotto was full of flavour and the salmon from the buffet was a very generous size, all served expertly.

It would have been so easy to stay for another glass of wine, to gossip - after all Laura was only here for a week's flying visit from the States. But we needed fresh air and a brisk walk  ...so we walked and talked past the almshouses and up the hill into the other part of town.

Past lovely quirky mediaeval houses and alleyways  and the grandeur of the gothic.

We strolled into St John the Baptist's church on the High Street, a designated Grade 1 listed building which originates from the 12th century.. Unfortunately this is now a redundant church...but it's looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust. Although it wasn't full of worshippers, there were quite a few people perusing the aisle full of charity Christmas cards.


All too soon it was time to stroll back to our car, over the river by the alms houses....



A whirlwind four hours in what many believe to the be the finest town in England. It really is in a  league of its own.  I love coming here, each time I see something new, different, and make a promise to myself to return soon.

 Next time I hope my visit is longer, hopefully overnight, to really make the most of what this quintessential English town has to offer.







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