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My day started with a panic!

Well, it was a couple of hours into my day. First, picture a full English breakfast: bacon, sausage, egg, tomato, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, jam, orange juice and tea; and a one hour drive to Northamptonshire; only for me to discover my camera wasn’t working! The batteries were fine and the camera would turn on but it wouldn’t focus or take pictures! How was I going to prove I’ve been somewhere? How was I going to preserve my memories in case of early forgetfulness? Luckily I discovered the focus ring was jammed and after a gentle twist the camera was back in action. Above was my first shot of the day – a gravel path.

I am glad my camera was working because I was at Althorp -which has been the seat for over 500 years of the Spencer family, and the childhood home and final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales.

This my only panorama shot today and I’m sorry it’s not that interesting. It’s Althorp House, its gardens and deer park in the distance. To me though, what this picture shows is the glorious weather of the last few days. Often English people are very grim about their weather, and yes, it does rain in this country! But that’s what keeps it green. What they fail to tell you is that you also get wonderful days like this. In fact, it was a bit too hot for me today as the temperature reached around 27 degrees celsius. You can also see the lawns at Althorp are looking a little parched.

The house itself is very nice – they don’t let you take photos inside. It’s still very much a lived in home and you get that sense from the personal items left around – family photos, books, board games etc. as well as the superbly stocked tables in the Library and the Sunderland Room: there were white tableclothed tables upon which sat a huge array of  spirits, liqueurs and mixers with tumblers at the ready at the off chance that someone (not the public of course) might pop in for a drink (note to self…).

The Stable Block, above, has been converted into a museum about the life of Diana. There is a room dedicated to her childhood years – items such as soft toys, photographs, school uniforms remind you just how young Diana was when she married – 20 – when most young people are barely adults in both behaviour and experience.

The wedding gown. Looks a lot less crumpled than it did on the wedding day doesn’t it? Unfortunately I took photos inside the museum and then realised I wasn’t meant to afterwards. Ooops. Exactly how much did I pay for that entrance fee?

And there were dresses! Coats, hats, skirts, jackets and shoes!

Lots of them!

I thought I should show you them in some detail.

Sorry this one’s a bit blurry but there were sequins. Actually they were probably jewels – I don’t think Diana would wear sequins.

Now, I’m sorry, but who else could get away with a glamour shot as their passport photo? She’s not facing forward, the background is too dark and she’s smiling. Anyone else and they would have sent it back during passport processing.

At the end of the exhibition I thought I’d reached the bookshop but actually these are the condolence books sent from all over the world following Diana’s death.

Diana is buried on this island, which lies in the middle of an ornamental lake.

On the island at the far right you can see a memorial urn and on the lakeside is the Temple for Diana.

I actually thought the Temple was a little disappointing – it’s not really a temple but just the front porch of a temple plonked by the side of the lake. There’s also an unfortunately cheesy quote from Diana in which she portrays herself as some kind of superhero for society’s most vulnerable “…whoever is in distress can call on me and I will come running to wherever they are…”. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, all you have to do is…  I just thought the Temple was a bit tacky and didn’t do her justice.

It’s in a lovely spot though.

I had lunch in the stable courtyard.

Now, you didn’t think I’d leave it at just one stately home for the day would you?

On the way back to Warwick I visited the National Trust property Charlecote Park, home to the Lucy family since the 12th century. The building’s Elizabethan and Queen Elizabeth I actually stayed here once.

At this property they let you take photos inside. This is the Great Hall.


Another grand room…can’t quite remember…

Had a lovely ceiling though.

An Elizabethan garden. To the right are stone steps that lead straight down to the River Avon – people would often travel by boat to these great houses. Must be tricky at flood time though.

Had a great dinner at an Italian place here in Warwick called Giovanni’s – absolutely delicious. Giovanni and his wife grow all their own vegetables – tasty!