In September of 1998 Maurice & Kath Harvey of Russets, Winthorpe were returning from a caravan touring holiday in the Alsace, France and decided to visit the famous "Monet's Garden" near Evreux in Northern France. On their journey home to Winthorpe Maurice casually mentioned to Kath, "I wondered whether the Art groups and Gardening Club would be interested in visiting the gardens in an organised coach holiday." Maurice approached the local coach company, Travel Wright of Newark and spoke to David Wright, the operations manager, who was extremely helpful and agreed to cost a coach holiday to visit the garden and other attractions in the spring of 1999.
In June, a coach full of Winthorpe residents and their friends, driven by Ben Wiltshire, a late resident of the Spinney, left the village early morning to catch the train through the Channel Tunnel. On arriving in France the heavens opened and it rained continuously throughout the journey to the hotel on the outskirts of Evreux where they paddled through inches of water to the hotel entrance. Spirits remained high however and on awakening the following morning the sun was shining and remained so for the remainder of the holiday. The visit to Monet's Garden was a great success especially the famous bridge in his painting. After visiting the garden we travelled to see Richard the Lionheart's Castle at Les Andelys. The next day we travelled to Paris on a sightseeing tour of the French capital, many went on the Seine cruise before visiting Napoleon's Tomb, Arc de Triumph, the Sacré Coeur with marvellous views over Paris ending the day at a Turkish restaurant in Monmatre where we had the speciality onion soup. We returned to the hotel after a super day. On the return journey to the UK we spent a few hours sightseeing in Rouen. Everyone agreed that it had been an excellent holiday break and asking, "Where are we going next year?"
As a result in April, a coach holiday to Holland was organised with Travel Wright. Visits to the Keukenhof Bulb Festival and other places of interest were again fully supported by Winthorpians and their friends. This time we went by ferry to the Hook of Holland and stayed at a hotel near Gouda, famous for its cheese. The highlight of the holiday was the visit to Keukenhof Garden where thousands of various bulbs were in full flower as well as the glasshouses where rare and exotic plants and bulbs were on show. Everyone returned to the hotel tired but full of praise for the spring display of bulbs etc. over many, many acres. The following day a visit was made to the famous flower market at Aalsmeer where millions of flowers and plants are auctioned daily under the Dutch auction system, the price per item starts high and gradually reduces until the buyer presses his button to purchase. After their purchase the plants and flowers are exported all over the world. On leaving Aalsmeer we travelled to Volendam on the Zuider Zee where we saw a race of huge yachts and visited the local shops. We visited exhibitions of clog and cheese manufacture before crossing the Zuider Zee on a ten mile causeway built as part of the sea defences to Lelystad where we visited a demonstration of how the sea was controlled and the dykes drained. The following day we returned to the UK via Delft where we saw a demonstration of their famous porcelain/pottery manufacture. On the way to the ferry port we visited the Island of Windmills where windmills were operating, we also saw nesting storks.
We returned home again with the comments, "Where are we going next year Maurice?"
Faced with this challenge an approach was made to Travel Wright to cost a holiday to the Loire Valley in June with the objective of visiting several châteaux and wine tasting. As in previous years the coach was full and we crossed the Channel to stay in a hotel in Rouen. On arrival at the address in Rouen there was no hotel in the name booked for the party. After driving up and down we learned that the hotel had been renamed. Next morning one of the group had been to the quay to photograph a cruise boat, and on returning to the hotel by way of a pedestrian crossing was hit by a motorcyclist. Fortunately there was a police station nearby and Keith was taken to the hospital accompanied by Maurice. In the meantime the remainder of the group visited the shops in Roven. Keith received marvellous treatment in the hospital being checked through outpatients with a resultant X-ray. Fortunately no broken bones but extensive bruising.
We then travelled to Tours for the remainder of holiday. Visits were made to Chenonceaux, Chambord and Amboise Châteaux plus the château at Villandry where the flowerbeds are all planted with vegetables showing splendid colour. A visit was also made to wine caves in Vouvray where a tasting resulted in many purchasing the samples. On the journey home we stopped overnight in Arras where a visit was made to the caves under the town, which were used in the First World War. Another successful holiday with the resultant comment about next year.
In late October a party left for a weekend break in Cumbria staying at the Inn on the Lake on the banks of Ullswater. The weekend included a drive over Kirkstone pass to Windermere and Bowness where some took the ferry to Watersedge at Ambleside and on to Hayes Nursery Garden Centre. A visit to the Rhegid underground exhibition, near Penrith was also included.
A weekend break was taken at the Thistle Hotel, Grasmere at the end of October visiting the Solway coast and Muncaster Castle where we watched a display of falconry. We had an adventuresome journey back through the narrow roads to Coniston and on to our hotel in Grasmere.
In December Harvey's holidays expanded to cover the Xmas Concert at Thursford, which was to become an annual event.
In May the holidays started with a visit to the Eden Project staying at a hotel in Falmouth. Visits were made to the National Trust garden at Trelissick and Porthleven where the sea was quite rough. We also visited the Gold Mine, a shop where some made purchases of local products and St Ives the ever-popular Cornish seaside holiday town.
A visit to the "Rhine in Flames" was made in September, staying at a hotel in Koblenz. After a cruise on the Rhine and a dinner aboard, dozens of craft of all sizes gathered on the Rhine at Oberwesel where we witnessed a fantastic firework display. The following day a tour of the Mosel valley ended in a wine tasting again with many making purchases of a wine, which took their fancy. With an overnight stop in Arras we visited the Menen Bridge to witness the sounding of the Last Post by the Ypres fire brigade, which they do every evening at 20.00hrs.
December brought the annual visit to the Thursford Xmas Concert.
No rest for Winthorpians, in May a full coach left Winthorpe for a holiday in Northumberland staying at the Percy Arms in Otterburn. Visits were made to Alnwick Castle and its garden, Craster, famous for kippers, (We had kippers for breakfast one morning in the hotel) and Bamburgh Castle. The highlight was a visit to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) and its Castle. The ladies in the party enjoyed the visit to the Otterburn Mill shop, many purchasing sleeveless jackets. On the journey home we travelled close to Hadrian's Wall calling at the Roman remains at Chesters before having a break in Hexham. We had a fish & chip supper at the Millstones Restaurant near Harrogate.
In August, Travel Wright had a coach holiday to see the Bi-annual Carpet of Flowers in Brussels. Thirty-three Winthorpians and friends made the trip and witnessed a spectacular display of thousands of begonias displayed in the form of a carpet in a square in Brussels. We also had a city tour of Brussels and a half-day visit to Bruges where many took a canal boat viewing the ancient buildings.
October saw Harvey's Tours travelling to North Wales, staying at the Victoria Hotel in Llanberis. Unfortunately the weather was changeable at the foot of Mount Snowdon and a trip up the mountain, on the famous train, was cancelled due to 80mph winds. However, visits were made to the Slate Museum in Llanberis, Portmeirion, an Italian style village, the Swallow Falls which were in full spate due to the heavy rains, Betws-y-coed, the Bodnant Gardens (N.T.) and the coastal road to Conway and Bangor. A visit was made to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on Anglesey. The holiday was not without incident, one passenger taken to hospital with a suspect heart attack, one lady walking into a non-opening door and one falling down steps cutting his arm. Despite these hiccups and the weather all enjoyed the break
In December the annual trip to the Thursford Xmas Concert was well attended and enjoyed by all.
A comment by a person, who had been on most trips, is that these holidays have proved that as people get older they don't have to sit in front of the fire and ruminate, they can get up and "Go."
The most obvious benefits are the community spirit prevalent in Winthorpe. Those most able help their friends, so everyone is able to join the group. The holiday starts as you board the coach and when there is a problem to be solved someone you know is there to help.
It is worth mentioning that the staff at Travel Wright and especially David Wright has helped to make these holidays enjoyable and successful, offering advice and providing excellent coach drivers.
Holidays in Southern Ireland and Western Scotland are in the planning stage.
Maurice Harvey. December 2004.
Saturday 11th June - An early start as 53 passengers set off on a tour of Dublin and Southern Ireland. A quick trip (1hr. 49mins.) across the Irish Sea from Holyhead to Dublin. Then to the Esplanade Hotel at Bray for a two night stop. Bray, a Victorian seaside town modelled on Brighton, is about 4 miles south of Dublin.
Sunday 12th June - With a guide on board the coach we had a 46-mile trip around Dublin to see the main buildings and sights. This included
- St. Patrick's Cathedral, a Gothic design by De Londres built in 1225 - 54.
- Trinity College founded in 1592, where the most decorated of Ireland's medieval illuminated manuscripts, the Book of Kells, are kept.
Georgian houses with front doors of different colours. Permission has to be granted to change the colour.
- The General Post Office, scene of the 1916 uprising.
- Phoenix Park, the second largest city park in the world, covers 1760 acres. In the park are the residences of the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, with a lighted candle in her window for friendship that burns daily for 24 hours, and the United States Ambassador to Ireland, James C. Kenny. He pays an annual rent of one Euro.
In the afternoon was a tour around the world famous Guinness Brewery, founded by Sir Arthur Guinness in 1759, followed by a ride around the Wicklow Mountains.
Monday 13th June - On our long journey westwards via Limerick to Killarney, we visited Adare, considered Ireland's prettiest village. This picturesque village, with its thatched cottages, reminded me of the Cotswold's. Then to Killarney, a town catering for tourists with small busy shops and large hotels. This town is dominated by St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, a neo-Gothic structure by A. W. Pugin and built in 1842 - 45.
Our stay for the next four nights was the Holiday Inn; 10 minutes walk from Killarney town centre.
Later that evening we visited the High Street of Killarney. The atmosphere was fantastic with people drifting in and out of brightly lit shops (some shops do not close until 11pm) and musicians playing along the length of the street. A visit then to the darkened public house of O'Connor's, packed to the brim, to listen to traditional Irish music.
Tuesday 14th June - Jaunting Cars, which are horse-drawn vehicles with their ‘jarveys,' picked us up for a trip around the Killarney National Park. This park with its lakes, forests and mountains, covering 26,000 acres, is Ireland's first National Park.
Wednesday 15th June - The whole day was spent going round the Iveragh Peninsula known as the Ring of Kerry. This 112 miles coastal tour, on the southwest tip of Ireland, is one of the most popular and well-known sightseeing tours of Ireland. It is very scenic with the coastline varying from the peaceful to the wild and rugged while inland the landscape included peat bogs, mountains, isolated colourful farms with fields and small streams.
A day to remember.
Thursday 16th June - The morning trip was to the Lower Lake, one of three lakes in Killarney's National Park, for a one-hour trip onboard the 80-seater boat ‘My Pride of the Lakes.' The nearby 15thCentury Ross Castle was built by the local chieftain O' Donoghue Ross whose name coincidentally is the same as two of our tour members.
In the afternoon we visited Muckross House, garden and farm. In 1861, Queen Victoria visited this neo-Gothic mansion, built in 1843 by Henry Arthur Herbert.
The evening visit was to Kate Kearney's Cottage, former home to a local beauty who ran an illegal drinking house for passing travellers in the mid-19th Century. We had black liquid refreshments whilst listening to a trio playing traditional Irish music and watching two young girls dancing for us in their colourful costumes.
What a lovely ending to the day.
Friday 17th June - We left Killarney journeying eastwards to Blarney Castle built in 1446 by Dermot Láidir MacCarthy. One has to climb the 83-foot high tower to kiss the Blarney Stone. According to one story, Cormac MacCarthy received half the Stone of Scone in gratitude for his support of Robert Bruce's troops at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The Stone is set into the castle keep just below the battlements and later came to be called the Blarney Stone. It is said anyone who kisses the stone will receive the gift of eloquence.
Continuing our journey eastwards to the city of Waterford we passed Cobh on Great Island, one of three islands in Cork harbour, the birthplace of my paternal grandfather. We then stopped for a one-hour tour of the world famous glassworks of Waterford Crystal founded in 1783 by George and William Penrose.
Then for an over night stop at Dooley's Hotel on Waterford's quay.
Saturday 18th June - An early start to Rosslare for a journey (3hrs. 45mins.) aboard the ‘Isle of Innesmore' across the Irish Sea to Pembroke Dock on the south west coast of Wales. Then a long coach journey home, on a very hot day, after a most memorable holiday.
Unfortunately Maurice and Kath Harvey were unable to join us on the holiday that Maurice had planned in conjunction with David Wright of Travel Wright.
Many thanks to Peter Foden for stepping in at such short notice enabling the holiday to go ahead as planned.
Thanks also to our driver, Peter Seymour for his friendliness and good driving skills.
Sadly Maurice died on June 23rd 2005 age 78 years.
Friday 16th September - An 8.30 am start as 41 passengers, with Gary Alvey our driver, left Winthorpe on a coach holiday to Western Scotland. A lunch stop was made at the village of Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Hawes is famous for Wensleydale cheese, rope making and is the home to the Dales Countryside Museum. Due to the long journey (400 miles) to Oban, our main stopping point, we stayed overnight in Lockerbie at the Lockerbie Manor Hotel, built in 1841, for Sir William Douglas and Dame Grace Johnstone. Their great-grandson, the 8thMarquis of Queensbury, was responsible for formulating the present day ‘Queensbury' rules of boxing.
Lockerbie was the scene of an air disaster, when on the 21stof December 1988, a Boeing 747, belonging to Pan Am, blew up in mid-air killing 270 people. Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, a Lybian intelligence agent, was later convicted for planting the bomb and received a life sentence.
Saturday 17th September - Continuing on our journey to Oban passing through Glasgow, once a hive of activity in ship building and heavy engineering, we drove through Scotland's first National Park, ‘Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.'
Loch Lomond, Britain's largest freshwater lake is immortalized by the ballad, ‘The Banks of Loch Lomond,' believed to have been written by a condemned Jacobite soldier, while in jail, in Carlisle after the 1745 rebellion. His lines about ‘yon bonnie banks' have gone round the world.
The Trossachs are a beautiful range of hills straddling the border between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
Through Tarbet on to Loch Fyne, known worldwide for oysters. A lunch stop at Lochgilphead then over Clachan Bridge to the Isle of Seil, one of the so called ‘Slate Islands.'
Clachan Bridge, a single span bridge, built in 1792 by Thomas Telford, linking the Isle of Seil with the mainland, is often called the Atlantic Bridge because it spans an arm of that ocean. Other bridges on the Western seaboard do likewise, but only the Clachan Bridge is so labelled.
Seil, is where Mrs. Francis Shand Kydd lived before her death on the 3rdof June 2004. Mrs. Kydd was the mother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
Finally arriving in Oban, known as ‘The Gateway to the Isles' for a four-night stay at the Columba Hotel. The harbour water surrounds the hotel, on the Esplanade, on three of its sides.
McCaig's Tower, also called McCaig's Folly, dominates the town with its bustling port and holiday resort. It recalls a local banker John Stewart McCaig who, in 1887, had a large replica of the colosseum built, as a family memorial, to ease local unemployment.
Standing majestically at the end of the Esplanade is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Columba. Giles Gilbert Scott built this neo-Gothic building, with its highly distinctive pink granite, between 1932 and 1958.
Sunday 18th September - Leaving Oban and travelling eastwards alongside Loch Etive it was noticeable that the crofts were painted white and the trees deciduous, mainly beech and birch with a sprinkling of rowan, and not coniferous as on the mountain sides. The lowlands with their rushes indicate that the ground was boggy. The rushes were picked by the crofters in summer, dried, dipped in fat and used as wicks for their oil lamps.
After going through the Pass of Brander, with its bare mountains and a scattering of trees, a coffee stop was made at ‘The Green Welly Stop' at Tyndrum. Continuing towards Glencoe, a photo stop at a viewpoint on the side of Loch Ba revealed a cairn, dedicated to the memory of the hundreds of mountaineers who had lost their lives climbing Scottish mountains. Over Rannoch Moor, granite boulders spread around the flat boggy land with mountains in the background, until we came to Glencoe.
Glencoe is probably the most famous glen in Scotland, partly because it carries a main road that allows some of the finest hill scenery in the Central Highlands to be viewed with no effort whatsoever. This includes the impressive view of Buachaille Etive Mor guarding the eastern approaches to the glen and the ‘Three Sisters,' the three long spurs running off Bidean nam Bian, the highest peak in Argyll.
It was here, on the 13thof February 1692, that the Massacre of Glencoe took place, when 130 soldiers captained by Robert Campbell killed 38 members of the Maclan MacDonalds in a terrible breach of trust. Many more died in their cold wintry mountain hideouts.
Glencoe is also home to the Glencoe Ski Centre.
At Loch Leven Hotel, in North Ballachulish, a lunch stop was made. The journey back to Oban followed the shores of Loch Linnhe.
Monday 19th September - On a wet morning, 21 of the party sailed on the 462 seater M.V. ‘The Isle of Mull' for the journey (45 minutes) from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull.
Mull is the third largest island in the Hebrides, exceeded only by Lewis and Skye. It is a place of high hills, bare moorlands with lush growth, tall trees in sheltered glens, streams, sea lochs, and bays with about 50 inches of rain per annum.
The author of the poem ‘Mull' adeptly describes Mull.
The Isle of Mull is Isles of the fairest,
Of ocean's gems 'tis the first and the rarest;
Green grassy island of sparkling fountains,
Of wavering woods and high tow'ring mountains.
Travelling by the local coach we journeyed to the former fishing port of Tobermory. This port has a Mediterranean air about the place due to the brightly painted houses in a crescent of mainly 18thcentury buildings. It is also the scene for the B.B.C. children's television programme Balamory.
It was the intention to visit the Isle of Iona, but due to rough sea conditions, the Iona trip was cancelled.
The small island of Iona is one of the biggest attractions on Scotland's west coast. A restored abbey stands on the site where the Irish missionary St. Columba began his crusade in AD 563 and made Iona the home of Christianity in Europe.
It is here where John Smith, leader of the Labour party from 1992 to 1994, is buried.
Tuesday 20th September - We travelled by coach to Fort William, one of the largest towns in the western part of Scotland. Named after William, Prince of Orange, the town lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain (4406 feet) in the British Isles. We then boarded The Jacobite Steam Train, for the 41 miles journey to Mallaig, considered, by some, as one of ‘The Great Rail Journeys of the World.' The journey, which lasted 2 hours 5 minutes, had breathtaking views of viaducts, including the Glenfinnan Viaduct, lochs, sea lochs, glens and mountains. The spectacular views appeared at their best in the bright sunshine.
The train and the Glenfinnan Viaduct, both enjoying star-studded status, was used in the Harry Potter films.
Mallaig, on the Atlantic coast, is an active little fishing port with a good harbour and has ferry links to Skye and the ‘Small Isles.' It is an area of natural beauty with pebble dashed houses struggling for space with great lumps of granite tumbling down into the sea.
A charming little coastal town.
Travelling back by road alongside the railway line, we called at the National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre at Glenfinnan. It is here, that in August 1745, that Bonnie Prince Charlie first raised his standard. A 66-foot high monument commemorates those who rose to support him in the Jacobite rebellion.
It is also here that the Glenfinnan Viaduct can be seen. This viaduct is 1,280 feet long and has 21 arches, was built in 1901 by the engineer Robert MacAlpine, (Concrete Bob) who pioneered the use of mass concrete for such large works while building the rail line.
The views at Glenfinnan, typical of Western Highlands, are used on picture postcards to place mats,
This day brought back many happy memories for me. In my school days, a long time ago, I travelled daily on this type of train. On the tables, as used in the carriages, my school pals and I played shove-halfpenny and football. One pal had small goal posts with nets made with wire.
Wednesday 21st September - With great sadness we left Oban for our journey home. Through the Pass of Brander alongside Loch Awe, Scotland's longest loch, we had a lunch stop at Inveraray, one of the wettest places in the Highlands.
Inveraray, on the side of Loch Fyne, is a delightful town planned in 1743 by Archibald Campbell, the 3rdDuke of Argyll a short distance from his multi-turreted mock Gothic castle. All Saints' Church is unusual in that the bell tower is a little way from the church building. Two septuagenarians climbed this 126 feet high bell tower with its 176 steps, followed by a rest. The bell tower has a ring of ten bells weighing nearly eight tons. They are the second heaviest ring of ten bells in the world, the heaviest being Wells Cathedral.
Inveraray was the headquarters of the Combined Operations during WW11 where 250,000 allied troops trained.
Leaving Inveraray, we once again passed through ‘Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park,' over the Erskine Bridge and followed the coastal road alongside the Firth of Forth for a short stop at the seaside town of Largs. This was a very nostalgic stop for two of our passengers, Keith and Sylvia Lloyd. They had lived there for ten years before settling in Winthorpe. Having tea and scone in their favourite café, Nardini's, their day was made a little better when Scottish Television interviewed Keith.
Who told Scottish Television they were coming?
We finally arrived for our overnight stop at the 91-room Cairndale Hotel in Dumfries. Dumfries commonly known as the ‘Queen of the South' is where Robert Burns, the best-known figure in Scottish literature lies buried.
Thursday 22nd September - Continuing south a short stop at Gretna Green, close to the Scottish border, is where eloping couples from England come to marry.
A lunch stop was made at Settle in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The town stands on the largest outcrop of limestone in Britain in a region of scars, cliffs, caves and potholes.
We arrived back in Winthorpe at 5.30 pm.
This has been an unforgettable holiday. The scenery that we had seen must rank as the best in the world.
Who can forget Glencoe. It was breathtaking. While passing through the Glen, the coach had to stop for several minutes. Road repairs were being carried out. The sun was shining on the steep mountains. At the bottom of one of the mountains, fast flowing water was tumbling over rocks before passing under a small stone bridge. These are moments you never forget.
Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, although it was raining, the colourful houses, I am sure appeared more beautiful.
What can I say about The Jacobite Steam Train? It was very nostalgic.
The ‘Fyne' views from the top of the Bell Tower of All Saints Church in Inveraray. (Inveraray is on the shore of Loch Fyne)
These are some of my memories. Are they yours?
Wednesday 14th December - 48 Winthorpe residents and friends travelled to Thursford in Norfolk for the annual Christmas concert.
Thursford is the home to the Thursford Collection. A museum that comprises of steam engines from static engines to traction engines, carousels, organs from the smallest street organ to the enormous Wurlitzer organ, originally at the Odeon Cinema in Leeds.
In this surrounding the largest Christmas Spectacular Show in England takes place. John Cushing, son of the late George Cushing, founder of the Thursford Collection, started the show in 1977. This takes place annually during November and December. Taking a year to organize, the show is a blend of exciting entertainment, with Christmas songs, carols, dazzling dancers, beautiful costumes, outstanding music and singing from a cast of over hundred professional performers. Nearly 1500 people watch each show, of which there are 73.
This is a show, which would not be out of place in any London's west end theatres.
This is the end of a wonderful story. A story that started in 1988 when Maurice had a vision. He was returning home after visiting Monet's Garden in France when he said to Kath, "I wondered whether the Art groups and Gardening Club would be interested in visiting the gardens in an organised coach holiday."
With Kath's approval and great enthusiasm, Maurice approached David Wright of Travel Wright with his idea. Little did he know what he had let himself in for?
The following year, with the help of David Wright, a full coach set off for a tour of Monet's Garden and France.
This highly successful coach tour lead to more, until after seven years Maurice had organised
- Six continental holidays.
- Seven British Isles holidays.
- Four Thursford Christmas Concerts.
Maurice brought happiness to a lot of people. He gave people a chance to visit places they could only dream off.
On behalf of every one, who went on those coach holidays, I thank the following for giving us pleasurable and memorable times.
- The late Maurice Harvey for all the hard work he put into the organizing the holidays.
- Kath, for the support given to Maurice. Behind a good man there is always a good woman.
- Peter Foden for his help so that the holidays to Ireland and Scotland could go ahead.
- Jean, for the support given to Peter and who, at times was the chief headcounter.
- David Wright and his staff for their help in the planning of the holidays.
- John Allen, Gary Alvey, Norman Mee, Malcolm Sargent, Peter Seymour and Ben Wiltshire our coach drivers for their friendliness, humour and knowledge.
The holidays will be remembered for: -
Old friendships renewed, new friendships made and lasting memories.