The owners of Rockingham Castle, James Sanders Watson and his family provided a very warm welcome for their guests from the East Barkwith and Wragby area when two coaches were filled for the festive trip organised for the members of the Barkwith and district Gardeners Association and friends by Les Robinson.
Ninety was the maximum number they could accommodate for Christmas lunch which was part of the package for the visit to the stately home which has been owned by the family for 450 years and after leaving early in the morning as usual on these coach outings the party arrived early at their destination.
The passengers had the opportunity to look round the parish church nearby too if they wished and everyone was served with coffee and mince pies before being shown around the hall, specially prepared for festive visits in four groups each with a guide.
They were able to admire the beautifully decorated rooms all following the 1871 theme of living and celebrating Queen Victoria’s reign which added to the atmosphere and they were particularly impressed with a gong that was so loud it could summon staff to any part of the house in years gone by – and they were invited to demonstrate it.
The gardens too were beautifully maintained and all who were interested enjoyed a stroll on what turned out to be a perfect day once the early mist had cleared.
The lovely rose garden was a particular source of interest and there was a fascinating ‘elephant hedge’ too with plenty to see and also keep the two full time gardeners occupied.
When it was time for lunch all gathered in the converted stables where the excellent two course home cooked festive meal was served with all the trimmings, and very much enjoyed by everyone to end a delightful visit.
On the return journey the coaches stopped at Downtown near Grantham where they were welcomed with free cups of coffee and all were able to wander round at their leisure, enjoying the festive displays, making purchases if they wished and using the facilities before returning home.
A collection was taken to thank Les for all the time, effort, energy and expense he had extended into arranging the trips out to enable so very many people to enjoy visits to so many places of interest throughout the year which otherwise they would never have been able to see.
Nothing is too much trouble for him and his enthusiasm for ensuring that the outings are compatible with all ages, interests and abilities- and that there is a good hearty meal included in the programme is one of his top priorities- makes then very popular. If any passenger has to drop out due to a change in circumstances as the day draws near he always keeps a waiting list to draw on so that they do not lose out and everyone welcomes the opportunity to make a small contribution with a very big thank you to him.
Les has already completed his programme for 2014 after consulting his regular passengers for their preferences and the first will be the usual visit to wander in amazement at the carpets of snowdrops and aconites growing in profusion on March 1.
In recent years he has introduced short holidays to his plans which have become increasingly popular and the visit arranged to the Isle of Man in next years list has attracted more interest than usual.
Thank you Les for sharing your time and talent to give so much pleasure to so many who really look forward to enjoying what you have arranged for them.