Royal Tunbridge Wells

As I was flying back through London on a Friday night, I decided to make a stop in the UK along the way, and visit with my friends Mark and Rachel, who I hadn't seen in about a year. It was to be a pretty relaxed, easy weekend, which suited me quite well after the week on conference craziness. Mark was kind enough to pick me up at Heathrow on Friday evening, partially I think so he could show of his new Audi TT - it worked; I was very jealous.  :-)

After the trip back to Tunbridge Wells, we relaxed and chatted for a bit, then walked into the center of town and had dinner at the old hotel. The meal was excellent, and it was good to see them both after so long.

Saturday morning was a pretty relaxed affair. We were going to drive out to West Sussex to meet up with some of their friends in the afternoon, but Mark and Rachel had a neighbour's birthday party to attend in the morning. I lounged around until they returned, and we headed out. Rachel took one for the team, squeezing into the back of the Audi, as I just wouldn't have fit at all. 

Petworth House

The drive took a little less than an hour, and we met their friends on the grounds of Petworth House, which, according to Wikipedia:

Petworth House in Petworth, West Sussex, England, is a late 17th-century mansion, rebuilt in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, and altered in the 1870s by Anthony Salvin. The site was previously occupied by a fortified manor house founded by Henry de Percy, the 13th-century chapel and undercroft of which still survive.

Today's building houses an important collection of paintings and sculptures, including 19 oil paintings by J. M. W. Turner (some owned by the family, some by Tate Britain), who was a regular visitor to Petworth.

Flowers in bloom on the estate.

The grounds of the estate were pretty amazing, full of flowers and many huge, old trees that must have been there forever. The rain held off for us, and we wandered the grounds for a while, while the group got caught up. I guess it had been a while since they had all see each other. 

A huge old (I think?) beech tree along the path on the grounds of Petworth House.

There were many flowering shrubs throughout the grounds, and a number of architectural features to check out.

The spring had turned everything dazzling shades of green.

The ground of the house are quite famous, for a couple of reasons:

Petworth House stands in a 283-hectare (700-acre) landscaped park, known as Petworth Park, which was designed by 'Capability' Brown. The park is one of the more famous in England, largely on account of a number of pictures of it which were painted by Turner. It is inhabited by the largest herd of fallow deer in England. There is also a 12-hectare (30-acre) woodland garden, known as the Pleasure Ground.

With this landscape, you can only be in the UK.

Sadly, the rain started and so we had to call off our lovely walk and head out. One of the group had booked us lunch in a local pub, which was in this tiny village nearby. I have no idea how anyone would find the place, down this narrow lane that barely fit one car. It was very cool, and a pleasure to see.

Noah's Ark, the pub we had lunch at.

Both the food and the company were excellent, and as I was not driving I got to have a few very excellent British pints. One of the things I miss about not being back in the UK. Once lunch was done, we all headed our separate ways, and we headed back to Tunbridge Wells for a relaxing evening.

The castle in Tonbridge

Sunday was another bit of a lazy day, as the weather took a turn for the worst, and going out and wandering the countryside didn't look like a good option. We did take a short drive up the road to Tonbridge (yes, different place, different spelling), where we found a cool farmer's market going on. I bought a bunch of things for Justine, and then we headed into the center of the town to check out the remains of the old castle.

The remains of the castle in Tonbridge

There wasn't a lot left of the castle, but we were able to walk around a bit, and check out the remains. Part of the castle was still in relatively good shape, but we didn't go inside. It used to serve as the town hall for Tonbridge, which must have been pretty cool. 

Once again, the weather chose not to cooperate, so we cut things short and headed back to finish the bit of shopping that brought us into town. After that, it was a pretty lazy afternoon of watching some Game of Thrones, and generally chatting and relaxing. Good fun.

The crumbling walls of the keep.

I had to catch the 5:20 train in order to get to Heathrow to catch my 10:00 flight back to Vancouver, so we had to make it a bit of an early night. We said our good-byes that evening, so I wouldn't have to wake them in the morning, at that ungodly hour.

I did manage to catch the train, and was to the airport in lots of time. It was a great weekend in the UK, and as always was great to catch up with friends.