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After visiting Ludgershall Castle and Old Sarum for my birthday, we headed further south to visit Christchurch Castle and Norman House. Despite living in the south of England for many years and working/studying in Bournemouth and the New Forest, I had never been to Christchurch until that day. Our first stop was to walk to Christchurch Castle from where we had parked (near the picturesque Christchurch church and rose gardens).

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We walked around the church (Christchurch Priory) to get to the castle. The building would have been constructed in the late 1000s.

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The castle (actually, it is the tower and primary form of defense) is built upon a mound of earth, which would have been surrounded by a water-filled moat. All that is left is the ruins of a couple of walls. The castle would have originally been constructed of timber around 1100, and the stone structure would have probably been constructed in the 12th century.

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We climbed the stone stairs in order to get a better view of the castle and its surroundings.

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Next to the castle is another field and then the main road with hotels and pubs on the other side. We saw people in this field who were having a wedding. On the far side of the field is the ruins of Norman House, a house dating from the time of the castle. Beyond the ruins of Norman House are the two canals.

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This area looked pleasant with potential good walks, but we could not explore it for too long. The two canals gave the place a name 'Twynham', which means "place between rivers". The area changed its name to Christchurch because of the important priory here.

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The pigeons seemed to love the house, and we saw a dead one on the floor of the house and a lot of live ones hanging around the stonework.

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The lord would have lived in this house, and these formed his apartments and the Great Hall. Stables, kitches, and other buildings would have existed in the fields that we crossed near the foot of the castle (and on the other side of the filled moat).

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This is a rare example of a house from this time as many would have been constructed of timber instead of stone. The chimney has survived, and its survival is a rare feature. Kings would have come here to dine.

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Overlooking Norman House is the priory, and this large field would have held the other buildings to help with the running of the castle.

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After exploring both structures, we walked down the High Street. We had ice cream from a little cafe, and we looked in a couple of shops. Christchurch has the standard town/village High Street with the shops.

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Overall, we had a pleasant evening. Have you ever been to Christchurch?

Old Sarum is an ancient town that pre-dated its neighbour Salisbury. The town of Old Sarum was once thriving, and the market town of Salisbury was constructed nearby so that funds could be generated to build an even larger cathedral. The land that occupies Salisbury was owned by the bishop, so the new town was constructed along with the cathedral in the early 1200s. Eventually, the cathedral at Salisbury and Salisbury itself pulled more people in and Old Sarum lost its influence and was abandoned. The town and fortress was one of the most important in England. A model of the town in its heydey exists in Salisbury Cathedral.

I have driven past this monument so many times after working in Salisbury for awhile, but I never visited Old Sarum. I decided to plan a visit for my birthday.

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The town is built on an ancient site with an Iron Age hill and Norman town/fortress and is not far from Stonehenge. Previously, it was a Neolithic settlement (3000BC) that suggests it was used for seasonal gatherings until 1500BC. Because of its proximity to Stonehenge, it probably served an important function. The mounds around the area were for burials, so the area probably held some significance. Later, it was a fortress due to unrest in the area with other tribes. William the Conquerer inherited the town and its castle in the mid-1000s and used it for his army. 

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The entrance to the castle is across a footbridge over the raised banks of earth, and this was the main entrance. Inside is the inner courtyard where various buildings would have stood. In front is the Great Hall. It was built for King John in early 1200 and may have been used as a courthouse and entertaining since the kitchen was nearby. It was never maintained and the roof needed repaired in in the middle of the century and fell in about 100 years after it was constructed.

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Upon entering the inner courtyard, we found a bouquet of flowers alone on a table. A note read for us to take them and give them a home. I'd come to Old Sarum for my birthday so I was very happy for the gift of flowers to brighten my day as I felt a little down. I'll post more about these in another post.

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The royal palace also occupied this area of the inner courtyard and was built for King Henry I in the early 1100s. There was a view over the cathedral here, and we could see where the apartments, chapel, and latrines were. The latrines were expansive holes in the ground, and they were cleaned by someone lowered down into them. I don't think that would have been a nice job, and the hole is so deep that it would have frightened me too much to even access the room.

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The great tower's basement is photographed below. 

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The views over Wiltshire were stunning, even though the day was an overcast one.

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The inner courtyard (below) would have been a bustling place, like a city. It would have contained many buildings. By the 16th century, all of the buildings were demolished.

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The image below is all that remains of the great tower. In the foreground is the well, which was the centre of gossip for the servants. The well is probably about 70 metres deep. 

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I had a walk along the edge of the inner courtyard where the bank is raised. Below is the moat and outer courtyard.

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The next stop was to walk around the moat to the remains of the cathedral.

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I took in amazing views of Salisbury Cathedral, which is one of my favourite cathedrals.

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On the southwest side of Old Sarum is the remains of the cathedral. The nave is the only area that ordinary people could access, and there were no seats in those days. The cathedral was used as a meeting place and for other non-religious functions as well.

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The cathedral was built in the mid-1000s and was damaged in a storm a few days after it was completed. By the mid-1200s, the palace and cathedral had both been demolished.

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The final stop was the toilets, which are built into the hill of the outer embankment.

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I enjoyed my walk around Old Sarum. There's not too much to see, but the views are amazing and it is an important historical site. It must have taken a long time for the site to have been constructed over the thousands of years, and I find this fascinating. 

A Day in Birmingham (England)

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The weekend before last, I had a day in Birmingham. I was meant to stay longer than a day, but my time was cut short because I had a toothache. However, I made the most of my time and had a wander around the city in search for street art, sight-seeing, and shopping. Birmingham is the UK's second largest city, so there is a lot to see and do. In a day, I think I did get a good feel for the city. I've been to Birmingham before a couple of times several years ago, but I've never really explored it; I remember a trip to the Bull Ring shopping centre, but that was about it.

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Th Custard Factory is in the 'trendy' and 'hipster' area of Birmingham. This area is the equivelant to London's Shoreditch. I discovered so much street art here. It's a pity this was my first stop of the day and the shops must open later on a Saturday as not much was open. There's a lot of night life in this area as well as warehouses.

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On the way to The Custard Factory, I walked up Frazeley Street and caught the above view. I also discovered some old pubs, such as the one below.

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After a wander around, I headed back toward the city centre and came across the wholesale market. It was buzzing on the Saturday and I noticed a real mix of people and a random assortment of items for sale from meat to fish to clothing to textiles to trinkets and a lot more.

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Further on my way, I noticed and loved this green post box. I've never seen one like it.

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Also, bright and early on the way from the market was this guy with his mates. I can't believe they were starting so early for their 'stag do'. I assume that is what they were doing, but I don't know how they would have made it to the afternoon as it was before lunch at this point.

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I liked the signs in the middle of the centre with the street name.

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I was told by my colleague who went to university in Birmingham that I should go to the canal area. So, I found myself wandering along this busy area with nice restaurants, pubs, and a nice canal walkway with a lot of canal boats. There are also museums here.

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I spent a while walking up the canal.

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I saw canal boat trips advertised, and I happened to arrive a couple of minutes before one of the boats was going to depart, so I hopped on. My feet needed a rest by this time anyway. The boat trip was just over an hour and it started near Gas Street and went south to where the university is located before turning around again.

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I learned a short history of the canals in Birmingham and how they were constructed to ship items from this industrial area. The railroad also runs along the side of the canal, so we were told about it.

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After the canal boat trip, I went and had some lunch on the other side of this rainbow bridge over the canal.

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'Pickled Pig' is the name of the restaurant, and it had good reviews even though it was more expensive. It was coming up to 1:30 now, so I decided to give it a try. I had the drink and a vegetarian gnochi meal. Unfortunately, this was about the time that I really started to feel unwell with pain in my tooth. It had been bothering me all morning, but it got worse after lunch as I'd accidentally bit down the wrong way when I was chewing. 

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The food was very good and tasted fresh, and I loved the pudding.

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I walked back into the centre of Birmingham after my wander around the canal.

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A lot of redevelopment is taking place in Birmingham at the moment, and all of this is happening right in between the monuments, smack in the centre of the city.

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Victoria Square is the name of the large square with a lot of sculptures and beautiful buildings around it. Anthony Gormley designed the sculpture below.

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This is a sculpture of Queen Victoria.

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I spent an hour walking around the Bull Ring shopping mall, but it was a little too crowded. While I waited awhile for the people in front to finishing their photo-taking with the famous bull in front of the mall, a guy decided to turn up and butt in with his kids just as everyone else disappeared, leaving me no time to quickly get a photo sans people. I waited and hoped he would be quick, but the kids didn't want their photo taken but continued to occupy the spot and climb on top of the sculpture, so I just got them in it and eventually told him he was rude after I was waiting patiently for so long for others to finish and he ran up and butted in. He continued to try to photograph his disinterested kids and then more people decided to queue up and kids run in front of and on the bull, so I had enough and headed to the train station. I was waiting for this guy for over eight minutes (yes, I did look at my watch and count), and this is the best photograph I could get, with the guy's disinterested children and wife climbing around the bull. 

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The constant photo-taking because everyone had a phone or device with a camera is annoying once again, but I do wish people would stop and look who else is there before seeing a 'free' opportunity and running up before someone else. There may be someone there who is waiting to get a photograph of the monument without anyone in it. Not all of is like to take 'selfies' or may be with anyone to get 'selfies' of. I was on my own, but I am not invisible and it doesn't mean I am not sight-seeing if I am on my own. Just be polite, please. I really only needed a few seconds to get a photograph, compared to your several minutes.

I hope the next time I visit that I can enjoy it more without a toothache.

Ludgershall Castle

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Ludgershall Castle (located in Wiltshire, south England) was built in the late 1100s as a fortress surrounded by two rings of earthwork ditches. The location was used earlier for other forts, but the castle itself was constructed primarily of stone and consisted of a great hall, kitchen, apartments, and stables. King John updated the castle in the early 1200s to bring it up to date to use as a hunting lodge. The land around was used for hunting and games, and a viewing platform in front of the castle looked onto the fields. The castle is built inside the rings of earthworks, and a small farm and house is located next to the castle today. Although there is a road to walk up to the castle from the small parking area, we opted to walk through the earthworks.

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A path has been mown into the grasses, so walking and finding our way to the castle was easy. The site is maintained by English Heritage. We started on the left side where the path was located in the ditch.

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We had rain overnight, so the grass was still a little damp. We saw several snails and slugs climbing around.

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Nearer to the castle we had the choice to use the path in the ditch or on top of the earthworks. We opted for the high ground. Soo, the castle was in front of us.

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We stood in the location where the viewpoint over the fields was located. The information boards suggested that the land was not extensive enough for proper hunting, but rabbits could be hunted here and deer could also be kept. The land passed between different royal families. By the 1540s, the buildings were levelled so that the nearby house could have a garden with the romantic castle tower ruin kept as a feature point of the garden.

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In the 1960s and 1970s, the ruins were escavated to dertermine their use and possible appearance. Maps on the information boards marked out the kitchen, chapels, rooms, great hall and latrines and the approximate years that these buildings were constructed.

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We had a wander around the tower, although there's not a lot to see. Children from the house next door were playing around the ruins when we were visiting. Having a castle in your own garden/land growing up must be amazing. Other than the children, we had the castle to ourselves.

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After we had looked around the castle, we found the path through the earthworks in the opposite direction that we came from. This is the shorter route, and we noticed a lot of animal poo on the path, and I noticed that the wet grass had been trampled recently. As we were trying to guess the animal (I thought it was goat because the poo looked too 'big' for sheep), a load of rams came into view.

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Our visit to Ludgershall Castle was a quick one. I believe we spent about fifteen to thirty minutes here. The castle is free to visit and open during reasonable daylight hours.

The Dorchester hotel in London had an afternoon tea pop-up at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, but it was completely booked when I bought my tickets in January. Instead, I decided to go to their hotel on Park Lane where they were also serving RHS Chelsea Flower Show afternoon tea for the week. This was also on my "London Bucket List" because I've seen previous themed flower show teas, and they look so beautiful.

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The Chelsea Flower Show champagne afternoon tea takes place in the hotel's restaurant The Promenade, a beautiful area of the hotel with high ceilings, statues, and carved ceiling and coving with gold-plated details. The hotel has been serving afternoon tea since 1931. The afternoon tea comes with Laurent-Perrier Brut or Cuvée Rosé Champagne.

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For the event, floral designer Phillip Hammond has created the beautiful floral displays in the hotel.

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First up, the champagne. I had the standard, and the bloke had the Rosé. The standard was the same that we had at the flower show.

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Afternoon tea consisted of several 'courses'. The first 'course' was salmon with avocado and cavier on a biscuit base. An edible flower petal was presented on top in line with the theme.

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Next up, we had a selection of sandwiches: egg, cucumber, chicken, salmon, and beef.

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I opted for The Dorchester Blend afternoon tea, which is a standard black tea. The bloke wanted to try one of the Scottish teas, which has a surplus cost of £12.00. The Scottish teas had a smokey peat flavour/scent, and it reminded me of the flavour of whisky (minus the alcohol, of course). The tea was prepared differently from standard tea in that it was brewed in a glass pot. 

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Our second 'course' consisted of a small pot of white chocolate mousse and strawberry jelly.

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This was followed by scones, and we had the choice of clotted cream and blackcurrant or strawberry jam.

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The pastries were then delivered. First up, a cheesecake was served with a candied edible flower. I dislike cheesecake, so the bloke had this one and he assured me that it was tasty.

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I had the dark chocolate with salted caramel 'handbag'. This had a white chocolate ladybug and three sugared flowers. The chocolate and salted caramel was good quality.

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We were told to eat the round pastry first, which we did, because it is meant to be enjoyed cold. It was a creamy peach mousse with a rice and chocolate base. This was my favourite of the pastries.

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The butterfly pastry was a shortbread and lemon treat with a white chocolate butterfly and a slight caramel taste.

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After we finished, we were brought the final 'course', which consisted of chocolate and almond cake and another type of cake. A pot of lemon curd was also provided to have with the cakes.

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We enjoyed our afternoon tea, and I will highlight that the service was particularly good and our diertary needs were catered for.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

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I went to the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Chelsea Flower Show on Satrrday. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been on my "London Bucket List" for a few years now, and I can now tick that off my list. The show is a popular event in London's calendar because it gets a lot of press, and the Queen, royal family, and celebrities visit nearly every year. (They visit the day before it is open to the general public.) The show is only on for a few days at the end of May each year and is held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea near Sloane Square. The show gardens are created the weekend before, and it is open to the general public on Tuesday. The final day of the show is on the Saturday when all of the plants are auctioned off at 4:00.

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Royal Hospital Chelsea

I got up very early so that I could queue for the show to get in before it got too busy. Having never been before, I read tips online that mentioned seeing the show gardens first as they get busy later on. The night before, I looked at the guide and map and decided on a plan of action for seeing the show gardens. I'm glad that I followed this tip as I scrambled to see the show gardens, which did get busier as the time progressed, but I was able to see all of them. I've heard that some people do not get to see all of them because they can be several people deep later in the day.

Below are my photographs of many of the gardens at the show, including the prize won by each garden. In the prize category, Gold is top place; silver-gilt is second, and silver is third. 

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M&G Garden - (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden was inspired by the designer's memory of ancient oak woodlands in Exmoor National Park (England) and includes 'forest' trails, wildflowers, and a pool of water. This garden won the 'Best Construction Award'.

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LG Smart Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

There were a couple of gardens that I loved, and this was one of them. This garden advertises smart home technology but also brings it to the garden as well. I loved the pastel colours of the flowers, the minimal interior of the home, and the difference in textures with the furry skins on the back of the chairs. This seems to combine the home and garden together. The purple, white and green colour scheme seems to be popular this year.

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Watahan East & West Garden (Show Garden - Silver)

The Watahan East & West Garden is created by Japanese designer Tea Yano, and it combines English and Japanese styles and plants. I liked the reflections in the pool.

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St. John Hospice - A Modern Apothecary (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This was another one of my favourite gardens. This garden was inspired by doctors and care professionals when asked about improving health and the context of the healing power of plants based on the quote by Socrates "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." Plants that are known for their health benefits are included in the garden as well as a bench where one can sit and take in the aroma of lavender and other plants and watch the small fountain of water. The garden contains red-leaved herbs (Atriplex, Beta and Brassica) which contain anthocyanidins are known to relieve oxidative stress (stresses from toxins). Several of the plants in the garden can also be eaten.

The way plants clear toxins and freshens the air is very important to me. Studies have been shown that certain plants purify the air and get rid of toxins, and this is why house plants are important to remove toxins in plastics, furniture, products that we use, and vehicles. Since moving into a house in October and having more room, I have researched different house plants to buy to purify the air and to remove toxins and fumes from car pollution. Note that a lot of plants can be posionous to animals if eaten (cats are attracted to plants), but they can be placed up high on shelving where the animals cannot access them.

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The Chelsea Barracks Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden looks onto the Chelsea Barracks, so the garden was built to enhance the heritage and architecture of the building. Roses are prominent in the garden, and the bronze sculptures reference those who resided here.

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Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden will be moved to the Great Ormond Street Hospital (a children's hospital) permanently after the show. It is a centrepiece for families and children to come to gather while the children have their treatment at the hospital. The building is inspired by Japanese architecture. I love the metalwork on the ceiling of the building, which reminds me of leaves and the reflections that this would create to feel outdoors around the foilage. White and pastel purple/blue flowers also feature in this garden.

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Antithesis of Sarcophagi (Fresh Garden - Gold)

This granite cube has writing on one side and looks just like a solid cube of rock. However, there is a surprise inside. Visitors walk around the cube and discover small holes in the stone to look through. Inside the cube is a beautiful garden. This unique garden won the 'Best in Show' in the Fresh Garden category.

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The 5000 Poppies Project

For Rememberance Day in Australia, 5000 poppies were knitted. It took three years to create the poppies, and many have been donated. This reminds me of the famous Poppies at the Tower exhibition in 2014. This is one of the most photographed pieces of the Flower Show this year, and it has received a lot of press.

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Grand Mirror Form

This sculpture was inspired by folding paper several times to come up with different shapes and angular forms. 

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The Husqvarna Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This Australian garden offers reflection and relaxation. The sunken lawn areas and layered hedges make the garden feel more private. The garden uses a lot of deep purple/pink/red shades of flowers along with sage-green leaves and red ferns.

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Vestra Wealth's Garden of Mindful Living (Show Garden - Gold)

This is a modern garden for a busy client inspired by the Far East and yoga. It combines views of the city with a garden space to enhance life's balance.

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Brewin Dolphin Garden - Forever Freefolk (Show Garden - Silver)

The message of this garden encourages people to think about natural resources and threats of the environment. This garden contains many brightly-coloured flowers and brightly-coloured gravel instead of following a limited colour scheme.

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The Telegraph Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden won 'Best in Show' this year, and it is inspired by the landscape with the slabs of bronze representing mountains. 

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Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

Mathematical patterns help to describe beauty and is commonly used in design, art, and music for composition. 

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Royal Bank of Canada Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden was inspired by a recent garden that the designer designed for the royal garden in Jordan. It contains scultped basalt pyramids and water reflections. The primary theme is the importance of water. The plants used are what can be found in Jordan and what suits the climate there.

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L'Occitane Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

The brand is celebrating 40 years of its beauty and skincare products. The garden is inspired by its home in Provence, France and is made to look like the countryside of this area with lavender, cornflowers, poppies, and other flowers and plants found in this area.

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Hartley Botanic Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden has a glass house sitting on the water. The glass house contains carniverous plants, but the outside is decorated with pastel plants.

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Cloudy Bay Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden is simple, and the wooden frame suggests that there are no boundaries. 

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God's Own Country - a Garden for Yorkshire (Show Garden - Silver)

This garden celebrates Yorkshire and its important gardens and heritage sites, including Yorkminster. The stained glass is a replica of Yorkminster, and it was created using methods from the 1400s. The garden contains flowers of multiple colours. Although I loved this garden and its multiple colours, I think it would have done better to plant flowers that complement the stained glass windows as I feel that they distract from it. There is a little too much going on. 

This garden won the BBC and RHS People's Choice award. 

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Oh, and I noticed that these brown irises were in quite a few of the gardens on display. I've never seen a colour like this before.

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The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This was a very beautiful garden to photograph with a variety of beautiful flowers and hedges. It was inspired by the British eccentric with mechanisms engineered and inspired by the likes of the creations in Wallace and Gromit and others. This is also a memorable garden because the bay trees twirled, the garden boxes on the shed moved, and the roof on the shed lifted. Other hedges spun or lowered. 

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The Modern Slavery Garden (Fresh Garden - Gold)

This garden also won the People's Choice award. It symbolises the hope for the end of slavery, but the bad still happens behind closed doors. The doors symbolise a way to open to freedoms.

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Imperial Garden - Revive (Fresh Garden - Silver)

This garden is designed by a Ukranian designer and had lace-like elements that join the different elements together. It tries to redefine the world by removing politics in the world to create a harmony.

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Pro Corda Trust - A Suffolk Retreat (Artisan Garden - Silver)

I loved this little garden, which contains a fountain, a summer house, and green and pale purple flowers. The garden is constructed as a retreat for young people with educational needs so that they could engage and create.

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Senri-Sentei Garage Garden (Artisan Garden - Gold)

This garden is for a car enthusiast and complements the car as well as provides a relaxing garden space.

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After visiting the show gardens, we went into the Great Pavilion. Inside are exhibitors and plant sellers as well as community/education exhibits. One of the displays featured the Queen's 90th birthday. We actually saw a few pay tribute to the Queen, and the show had an area with photographs over the ages.

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The Olympics also played a part in a large and colourful exhibition. Around this exhibit were several microscopes where we could see work by Willard Wigan. He creates artwork that fits inside an eye of a needle, which is barely visible with the naked eye. Looking through the microscope allowed the pieces to be seen an admired. I was wowed with this. Painting and constructing these tiny artworks was impressive. My favourites were the Olympic torch and Olympic symbol (how did he do this?) and the four seasons with the changing trees.

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Exhibitors tend to specialise in one plant area. There was an exhibit of orchids, roses, cacti, lillies, rhododendrons, peonies, carniverous plants, tulips, daffodils, irises, and other plants.

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A special exhibition to the Queen was also created with multiple colours. The other side of the artwork contains a mock 'stand' with buckets of flowers similar to what may be discovered at a flower market. This celebrates New Covent Garden flower market.

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A church frame was also created with beautiful pastel pink/purple, cream, and orange flowers.

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I liked the colours of the beach huts with the different colours of the plants.

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Before we wandered around the vendors, we bought a half bottle of champagne. The area was getting much busier, and we had seen nearly everything so decided to call it a day instead of waiting around for the auction. I did try to reserve a couple of plants in the Great Pavilion, but they were spoken for. This always happens to me, and I must have good taste.

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My tips for visiting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are to arrive early to beat the majority of the crowds and to see the show gardens before they get too busy. Get the guide beforehand and decide which route you want to take. Also, always have your guide with you and watch it carefully; I had someone walk off with mine. The sellers that sell the guides told me that people just try to take them for free. They are £10.00 a pop at the time of writing this, so I was down £10.00 when someone took mine. Also, the queues for the toilets can be very long, particularly around lunch time, so plan ahead if you need to go.

Food and drink can be purchased on site, but it is very expensive and the food that I had was not good quality. I went to Thames View for an early lunch at about 11:30 to avoid the crowds, and the service was also appalling. It was so appalling that different people in the queues around me (I had to go to two queues to get two different items) were joking about how bad it was and how some staff just stood around, would not make eye contact, and would ignore serving. Picnics can be brought, and there is ample space on the grass inside to eat for a fraction of the cost; you could even sit near the bandstand and listen to live music while eating.

If visiting on the Saturday, some of the exhibitors do reserve plants for the big sell off. Reserving seems to be quite popular, and if you really want something specific, it is the way to go. However, the best bargains are probably made when turning up for the auctions instead of making a reservation for something where the price is determined by the exhibitor.

If you have any additional tips, include them in the comments below.

An Afternoon in Rye (England)

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A couple of years ago at about this time of the year, the bloke and I visited Rye in southern England. Rye is a town popular with tourists and has many gift shops, souvenir shops, pubs, hotels, and tea rooms. The town has a rich history. It is located on the coast and The Mermaid Inn and The Olde Bell Inn were both used by smugglers. Many of the buildings date to the middle ages, and The Mermaid Inn dates to the mid-1100s. I enjoyed wandering around this town and getting photographs. It is a picturesque town with some beautiful buildings, but I regret that we could not spend a little longer here. I would have loved to have had a drink in one of the old pubs.

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Much of the town is built on the hill. At the bottom of the hill is the dock area. 

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The Old Bell pub

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Bell at The Old Bell

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Beautiful carved detail on side of building

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Many of the names of houses or streets refer to the sea or trading/smugglers. Trader's Passage is one place, and Watch Bell lane and Mermaid Street are others. Many buildings have their build date inscribed. "The House with the Seat" was another name for one of the houses here.

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Trader's Passage and Oak Corner

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The Mermaid Inn

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The Mermaid Inn

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Thomas House

We found ourselves at St. Mary's Church, which is one of the oldest buildings in the town. We had a peek inside before a wedding was due to take place.

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We also had a visit to the castle, known as Ypres Tower.

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At the end of our visit, it was time for a cup of tea and cake. We stopped off at Apothecary coffee shop on the way back to the car. It's a charming little shop on the corner of the High Street, and it's the perfect place to watch people. They have a large selection of cakes. I also loved the interior, which is made with old books, old card catalog cabinets and other chemistry or biology-related trinkets.

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All cakes were presented in wonderful cake domes. It was a hard decision for me to decide which flavour of cake to have as they all looked delicious.

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At the end, I had a bite to eat for lunch and this was followed by chocolate cake and tea, which was tasty.

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Have you ever been to Rye? I recommend visiting it.

A Visit to Rye Castle (Ypres Tower)

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Rye Castle is also known as Ypres Tower, and it was built sometime in the 14th century. It was constructed at the same time as the old city wall and its purpose was to keep out the French who would raid the coast. It was also used as a prison, and this became a primary use of the building later on. A separate tower was also used for women prisoners. In the 1800s, it was used as a soup kitchen for the poor and as a mortuary. It was used as a mortuary until the end of the 1950s. Today, it is a museum and one of the oldest buildings in Rye.

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The women's tower has information about women prisoners and the conditions. Outside this tower and in the grounds of the castle is a medieval herb garden.

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One of the exhibitions is located in a cell where murderer John Breads was kept. He was a butcher who was cheating people because he was deliberately using false weights to measure meat. He had a grudge against the judge and attempted to murder him later on. He wanted revenge and ended up mistakenly murdering the wrong man, so he was imprisoned in the tower before he was hanged. His body was put into a gibbet and displayed. A replica of this gibbet and a skeleton is on display in the cell. (The original gibbet and the remaining skull are in the town hall.)

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From the tower, there are views over the countryside. The tower is on one edge of the city and on a hill, so there are views from the top.

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The Rye coat of arms is located in many places in the city.

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Have you visited Rye Castle / Ypres Tower?

Manor Farm (Ruislip) & Ruislip Castle

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Not too far from where I live is Manor Farm (in Ruislip) and the remaining earthworks of a motte and bailey castle on the same site. Manor Farm has a 700-year-old barn which is considered the oldest in London. Once a month, a traveling craft and food market (known as Duck Pond Market, and they are based around west London) turns up at Manor Farm. A craft shop, tea room, and library are also located on the site. Several information points have been put up to explain the history of the site and the buildings on the site, and this information was helpful in my wanderings around the area.

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On site at the modern-day entrance from Ruislip High Street is the horse pond. It was known as the 'Horse Pool' in Elizabethan times and was one of the busiest places on the farm because the horses would be brought here to drink and cool off. Nearby was a blacksmith's workshop. The barns in the image above are the Cow Byre, and they date back to the 19th century. The Great Barn is next to them on the other side with the inner courtyard, stables, a pig stye and granary. The original burnt in 1976 and was rebuilt a few years later. Upon rebuilding, flint was discovered as was what could have been foundations of an early building, such as the guest house for the priory that used to be on the same site.

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The farm was a working farm and the land around it was farmed until the 1930s when the land was sold by King's College, Cambridge. It was sold and developed into a large housing estate due to the location of the rail station at Ruislip Manor. 

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This brings us to the Motte and Bailey (or castle) site. From 1087-1888, the priory was here. It was built by monks on the site which may have been an earlier motte and bailey castle. A new manor house was built in 1506 on the site of the priory, and the remains of the priory were completely demolished in 1613. The northern part of the moat was filled in in 1888. All that remains today of the motte and bailey are earthworks. The mound of land can be seen with a grassy moat surrounding part of it.

This brings us to Manor Farm House.

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The Manor Farm House was completed around 1508. The lordship of the manor was passed on to King's College, Cambridge in 1451. However, they wished to have more comfortable lodgings than the old priory, so a new manor house was built. Manor Farm was also used as a court until 1925.

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Manor Farm House is now a museum and cultural site that can be visited. Entrance is free, and it's actually a fairly interesting place to spend an hour. The musuem also describes Ruislip's history, such as how it got its name and what it means - a question I have wondered. (For you're information, it is two words combined: "rush" and "leap". It was a place to leap over where rushes grow. However, it's not really pronounced like that anymore and sounds more like Rice-lip.)

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Manor Farm House is also important because of a discovery found when work was being completed on the house. It has the oldest in-situ wallpaper of any building in the UK. The wallpaper was even discovered in an old newspaper advertisement, so they could trace the manufacturer and the pattern. The wallpaper in these days was meant to mimic wooden wall panel carvings. This is probably how wallpaper started (to mimic wooden panel interior carvings) before evolving into what it is today.

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Further down the hill is a ditch and bank, which was dug. This was probably the boundary betwen the park and the Saxon village of Ruislip. The park was the woodland for hunting animals, and it was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. Prehistoric fint tools and Roman and medieval pottery were discovered near, and the earthworks date at least 1000 years but are more modern than the other discoveries.

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Have you been to Ruislip Manor Farm House, the Great Barn, or this area of London before?

Nearly twelve years ago, I visited Caernarfon Castle with my parents and cousin. To this day, I still claim that it is one of the best castles that I have ever visited, and the scale of the site is enormous. Although it is a ruin, it is well-preserved, and the walls and most towers and rooms are accessible. The castle also has fantastic views over the sea and over the old village. I have fond memories of walking around the walls, which were on different levels, and shouting below to my family if I saw them below (we explored most of the castle on our own). There were many steps to climb, so you really need to be in top shape.

The castle was constructed from the late 1100s and it saw a lot of action and fighting here. It fell into ruin in the 1400s when castles were seen as less important.

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I can't believe that it's been so long ago, and I wonder if the castle still looks the same. When we visited, we had beautiful warm weather, and there were not too many people.

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