Adventure and scientific discovery take careertraveller to a kingdom of exotic and curious animal specimens at the National History Museum in Tring Hertfordshire.

Just a 40-minute fast train ride or 38-mile drive from London awaits this picturesque historic market town whose plethora of independently run shops, cafes and restaurants sits proud in the rolling Chiltern countryside. Located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) stands the prominent 19th century Victorian mansion of a museum, which now distinctively part of the Natural History Museum in London, brings us close and upfront to the wonderful zoological collections and life of Lionel Walter Rothschild.

Inside we uncover 6 beautifully maintained Galleries of historical specimens and research collections that tribute Walter, who born into wealth and prosperity developed a lifelong passion for the natural world. Greeted by a giant first floor polar bear, we unearth travels of science, zoology and taxidermy with displays of crab-Eating Foxes from the Savannas in South America to extinct dodos from Mauritius.

Home to a public display of classified 4,900 specimens in original glass fronted iron and hardwood cases from floor to ceiling are samples of endangered species and zoo animals that Walter once cared for, including a mandrill nicknamed George! Full of wonder, colour and curiosity, it is no surprise to learn that the museum looks after one of the largest ornithological collections in the world with a library of 75,000 works.

We advance to the Rothschild Room where Walter’s legacy comes alive with a giant life size model tortoise that replicates one of many he obtained from the Galapagos Islands. Protecting them from potential extinction and hunting is a story of his love of nature and animals with timeline dating back to 1872 when the Rothschild family bought the aristocratic Tring Park estate.

Images of gentry and sweeping woodland landscape reveals the origins of Walter’s aspiration to create a museum at the early age of seven. A collection of birds, beetles and butterflies, plus the addition of a curator in his teens, transports us back to 1889 where he was given the resources to establish his own museum. Not bad for a twenty-first birthday present!

Gallery to gallery depicts Walter’s world with Gallery 3 exhibiting iridescent hummingbirds that echo Walter’s journey to the tropical rainforests of Ecuador. Wooden cases reveal oddities, including a dressed flea collection from Mexico which once sold as souvenirs to tourists in the 19th century. Amongst the giant armadillo and pendulous fish we enter an arcade of brilliance with specimens accumulated from over 48 countries.

A collection of odd hoofed mammals including Zebras in Gallery 4 celebrates Walter’s unusual and outlandish specimens at Tring Park, which once housed kangaroos and emus roaming wild in the grounds. We even learn he trained zebras to pull a carriage and once took them to Buckingham Palace on a royal invitation!

As a museum first opened to the public in 1892 stand Galleries 5 and 6, which built at the turn of the twentieth century bring history alive with antelope, amphibians and domestically bred dogs in what feels like a bizarre menagerie.

Before we leave one of the largest private natural history collections compiled for study and breeding, we enter Gallery 2 where the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year exhibition showcases 34 images of wildlife. Storytelling photos of animal portraits, behaviour and habitat are a journey round the world with stunning international award winning nature photography that reflects Walter’s passion and interpretation of the natural world. Brilliant!

Further information:

Natural History Museum at Tring
Natural History Museum London

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Audley End House & Gardens, Essex December 2019

by Emma Bumpus on December 23, 2019

December takes Careertraveller to Essex for some seasonal Christmas sugar and spice at the grandiose Audley End House and Gardens.

A countryside drive through the medieval market town Saffron Walden with it’s old-fashioned buildings and quaint parish church is the perfect entrance to Audley End’s magnificent Jacobean mansion. Giant Iron gates with Coade stone lion statue are a journey back to 1786 when Thomas Lord Audley Howard, chancellor to Henry VIII, converted the foundations of this Benedictine monastery into an estate.

A majestic front of house entrance brings an intoxicating mix of classical architecture and elegant Capability Brown landscaped gardens that step into England’s story. Show stopping ‘king’ and ‘queen’ porches overlook a great lawn of infinite sweeping meadow and contrasting trees, which complemented amongst tranquil lakes and feature Adam stone bridge set the scene for a unique visitor experience.

Caught in a garden of gardens with meandering river Cam is a revelation of historical eye candy that includes the 1883 Polish war Memorial, built to commemorate soldiers based at the house during The Second World War. We time travel back further to 1771 with sight of architect, Robert Adam’s Temple of Victory in the distance with a former ‘hunting stand’ that celebrated victory for England and Prussia in the Seven Years War (1756-1763).

Immersed in history we head for the Service Wing, which artistically separated from the house with giant yew topiary reveals an oversize Christmas tree that puts us in the mood for the Preparing A Victorian Christmas event. A side entrance takes us back to the late 19th century when successful owners of the house, including the Braybooke family employed nearly 30 servants to run the house.

History comes alive as we step into an authentic freestanding and open planned Victorian kitchen where we are greeted by cook Mrs Crocombe and her professional staff from Past Pleasures Ltd dressed in authentic period costumes. In a bustle of festive Christmas commotion they re-enact bygone stories around a large wooden table amongst pendulous copper pans, traditional kitchen utensils and centrepiece range cooker that smacks of arduous cooking and elegant feasts.

The sweet smell of Christmas unfolds in the kitchen for Christmas dinner to be served to the Lord and Lady of the house with Victorian recipes that dazzle us with colour, technique and indulgence. Oranges and lemons take centre stage and kick-start a hands – on demonstration of plum pudding, mince pies and aromatic Prince of Wales Punch, whose liquor and citrus aromas sit ready for a banquet.

From adjacent pastry larder and cook’s room staff busy themselves with chores and whilst dividing their time between the scullery and dry larder they reveal Lord Braybooke’s favourite dishes and entremets. Amidst the suet and mixed spice to candied peel and roasted sirloin we unearth mincemeat menus from the 1840s that once filled the Victorian kitchen with Christmas zing both the ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs!’

Engaged and entertained visitors flock in and out of the kitchen for an eye opening show of on the spot historical interpretation and cookery that resonates. Surrounded by lavish Victorian puddings including flamboyant jelly and intricately iced Christmas Cake, the unusual Nesselrode Pudding beams with seasonal chestnut pride.

As the fire is stoked and the cooking continues we head outside for a tour of the estate and encounter the south Mount Garden, whose geometric paths and Parterre form the perfect backdrop for the Audley End December Enchanted event. An illuminated trail, fairy light maze and mirror ball alley anticipate evening to transform Audley End House and Garden into a floodlit world full of light, colour and sound.

Audley End House and Garden are a tribute to English Heritage who conserve and manage the estate, bringing English history to life.

Further Information

Audley End House and Garden

English Heritage

Past Pleasures Ltd

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The O2 London, November 2019

by Emma Bumpus on November 4, 2019

In search of London’s leading concert venue Careertraveller takes a trip to the Greenwich Peninsula where an evolving cultural landscape oozes entertainment.

A 30-minute tube and DLR train journey from King Cross to Royal Victoria DLR station transports us to a waterfront metropolis of harbour-like developments and skyscraper buildings in a bustling community of energy, vision and recreation.

Excited to have arrived in what feels like a budding New London wrapped around by the capital’s famous river Thames, we take a fashionable 3-minute walk to Emirates Royal Docks terminal for a flight on the UK’s first urban cable Car with Emirates Air Line.

Greeted by elegant overhead pristine gondolas we see London from a new perspective as we collect our boarding passes that come with a glossy souvenir guide of London’s landmarks. The magic begins as we soar steadily amongst a stream of 34 cabins; reaching 90 metres high at it’s the highest point. Exhilarated by the comfort and breath-taking views of local attractions including The Gherkin, London Eye and Thames Barrier we astonishingly watch overhead planes descend on the nearby London City Airport landing strip!

Things ramp up as we approach the legendary O2, London’s largest leading concert venue, whose dome shaped roof with twelve yellow steel towers tributes entertaining more than 70 million visitors since 2007! We end our 12-minute flight and begin another journey into popular music, entertainment and leisure under cover at London’s world famous dome.

A three-minute walk from the Emirates Greenwich Peninsula terminal leads us to this multi-purpose playground whose spaceship like design epitomises modern engineering and architecture. Built for the start of the millennium and originally opened January 1 2000 it becomes clear this ‘big sky’ inspired venue represents a wave of regeneration and tourism to the peninsula.

Lofty masts supported by tensile cables and a glass elevator lead our eyes Up at The O2 where a mass of morning pleasure seekers climb London’s superstar attraction. This sets the scene for our twilight climb. Whilst outside is an adventure playground of sublime skyline, wide skies and architecture, inside is an playhouse of intoxicating fun bursting with sport, food and shopping to music and movies.

Mind-blowingly titanic in size awaits a grand neon lit concourse with glittering staircase and giant Love Heart sculpture, chosen as an icon of the 20th century. In an airport-like dome with travel inspired tourists we make for the alluring sparkly silver escalator that offers a birds eye view of Sky Studios, where visitors can step into an interactive TV studio and read the latest Sky News or Sport headlines!

Upstairs at Icon Outlet is a glossy shoppers paradise of over 60 iconic fashion and lifestyle brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Hotel Chocolat, Calvin Klein and Moleskine. With something for everyone we dip into a range of premium products at outlet prices and discover that customers heading to a show have access to a free bag drop where all shopping is looked after! We take a break in the Chill Out Lounge whose white space zone overlooks a plethora of lower level shops, eateries and entertainment and head down to over 30 bars and restaurants.

Amusements galore appear in the form of indoor trampolining and ten-pin bowling to London’s biggest cinema, Cineworld at The O2, boasting 19 screens. Recent addition Mamma Mia!The Party show brings Abba to the table and dance floor alongside O2 Arena that hosts a variety of spectacular events throughout the year.

As daytime draws in we head outdoors to Up at The O2 Base Camp where we prepare to climb 52 metres high on the roof. An early check in gives us time for a brief introduction that covers safety, sights and climbing gear. Our guide explains the drill of harness, climb suit and boots, which raises the excitement bar as we prepare for a magical twilight 90-minute experience in moonlight. Great team spirit stirs amongst an adventurous group of punters ages 10 – 50 + years with the aid of Charlie, our welcoming leader who deserves a mention.

We begin our ascent on the south side where stairs and a glass elevator lead us seven metres up to a starting platform equipped with climbing clothing and harnesses. From here we venture onto the fabric walkway, which held in place by cables takes us on a journey of exhilarating London sights and lights. At the summit we take a break to capture the capital’s panoramic skyline that includes the likes of ArcelorMittal Orbit, Olympic Stadium, Shard and Old Royal Naval College. While some sip a glass of Lanson champagne, others indulge a selfie amidst the twinkling stars and feel proud to have completed an extraordinary challenge that makes you want to do it all over again!

A 360 degree account of the area’s history and revival by Charlie adds the finishing touches to a unique and memorable experience before we make our descent down the northern side of the building.

We head home with an Emirates Air Line night flight, which celebrates modern aviation with The Aviation Experience exhibition. An interactive Airbus simulator experience and insight to jet engines and science of flight prepares us for a return celestial trip to Royal Docks terminal where we gaze upon the stars and admire The O2 by night. Heavenly!

Further information:

The O2
Up at The O2
Icon Outlet Shopping
Transport For London – Emirates Air Line

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Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire October 2019

by Emma Bumpus on October 15, 2019

Seasonal colour, wide skies and layers of sweeping hills and woodland take careertraveller to Hertfordshire where 5,000 acres of diverse countryside smacks of autumnal rambling.

Owned and managed by the National Trust awaits a green paradise of wide open space whose pathways and forest tingle with outdoor adventure. Lofty trees are our chaperone to a variety of public paths, which spanning 80 miles bring us up close and personal to everyone from dog walkers and horse- riders to cyclists and all round nature lovers. We grab a map from the visitor centre whose choice of four colour coded waymarked routes, some long and some short, even caters for buggies and wheelchairs.

Standing in the Trust’s largest woodland is the impetus needed to climb the nearby imposing Bridgewater Monument. Built in 1832, we climb the 33 metre-high column, which built of Aberdeen granite provides 172 York stone steps that elevate us high above the treetops. Greeted by breath-taking landscape views stretching the Chilterns to central London’s Canary Wharf on a sunny day we capture all nature has to offer.

Forest therapy beckons as we opt for the 8-mile Wildlife Walk that promises open chalk hills, sprawling meadows and masses of oak and beech trees whose cathedral-like leaves reach majestically for the sky. Home to an abundance of wildlife we wander beneath the leafy canopy and embrace the onset of autumn with the satisfying crunch of leaves under foot whilst on lookout for deer. No surprises this ancient woodland is home to free roaming fallow deer, whom seasonally rut during October can be spotted at dawn on National Trust early morning walks.

Guided by yellow posts dotted with wildlife information we become acquainted with ants, beetles and haloed oak trees, whose spreading branches and holes are a habitat and shelter to insects, bats and birds. We gain an insight to the conservation work of the Trust whose aim is to protect trees from pests and disease as well as safeguard wildlife as we venture out of the forest and into the renowned Chiltern grassland.

Sweeping pastures lead us into the open Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) hills where a patchwork of meadows and downlands reveal two Iron Age Farms and ancient monuments. Incombe Hole takes us back to the ice age on steep chalky slopes, which once underwater and covered with glaciers now offers stunning views of this protected wildlife habitat for flora and fauna. A haven for butterflies, including rare species Duke of Burgundy, we look out for migrant birds including ouzels and willow warblers plus the occasional bird of prey known to frequent the Chilterns.

In sight of Ivinghoe Beacon we reach this historical landmark, which positioned on a 233 metre high hill above sea level marks the site of a former Iron Age fort. In the steps of ancient civilisations we encounter the Ridgeway National Trail, an ancient route that travels for 87 miles across countryside stretching from Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire to Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. Spectacular Home Counties landscape is a viewpoint for countryside lovers bursting with boundless green space and outdoors adventure for all the family.

As we meander our way back on this circular Wildlife Walk we enjoy the natural wonder of autumn’s vibrant tints, leaves and colour in a playground of fungi and berry winter fodder.

Ashridge is a parkland tonic for the senses and the perfect place to escape and soak up the seasons all year round, can’t wait to revisit!

Further information:

Ashridge Estate
National Trust

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Peak District, England August 2019

by Emma Bumpus on August 26, 2019

Windswept moorland, verdant hills and pretty stone-built villages whisk Careertraveller away to the Peak District, Britain’s first National Park.

Greeted by layers and layers of symmetrical lines of dry stone walls spread across a patchwork of pastures is a breath-taking journey into an area of spectacular beauty that attracts over 10 million visitors a year!

Driving through scores of hamlets and villages offset by distinctive soft hills and valleys reveals White Peak renowned limestone foundations with a welcoming plethora of local limestone pubs, hotels and houses full of honeypot character. Narrow field paths and lanes lead us to the picturesque village of Hartington, whose traditional parish duck pond, coaching inns and village pump echo days of a bygone era.

Observing ‘The Old Cheese Shop’, tea rooms and Village Stores, the latter being one 30 listed buildings around Hartington, brings an exciting introduction to Derbyshire’s first market village, which granted market charter status in 1203 smacks of tasty fresh locally made produce. The hilltop church of St Giles with it’s gargoyles and parts dating back to the 13th century add further character and historical interest which sets the scene for our stay at YHA Hartington, a heady mix of youth hostel and 17th century manor house!

First impressions take youth hostelling to the next level as we enter a leafy green playground containing giant outdoor chess and a secluded selection of landpods and bell tents that radiate outdoor fun and adventure whatever the weather. Passing welcoming BBQ firepits and tables fit for ‘under the stars’ alfresco dining we head for reception of what feels like a stately home.

Stone walls, partly rebuilt in 1611, and a medieval entrance door take us back in time through a grand entry hall whose welcoming stone floor, oak panelled walls and period fireplace create an intoxicating coaching inn ambiance. No surprise we learn that Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have stopped here in 1745 on his way to London so we take a sneaky peek at room 1 honoured in his name!

A check of the free Wi-Fi, cycle store, dry, laundry and games room meets our seal of approval and preps us for a walk through nearby Dovedale, a striking National Trust Nature Reserve bursting with wildlife and geology Peakland beauty. A walk along River Dove with encompassing meadows and limestone rocks involves a walk across the famous Stepping Stones which beneath Thorpe Cloud, the valley’s cone shaped 942 ft hill, justifies it’s local ‘Little Switzerland’ mountainous title!

A quick change and convenient boot wash back at YHA Hartington Hall makes time for an afternoon of Peak District sightseeing in nearby towns Buxton and Bakewell where foodie heaven appears. Tearooms and coffee shops to farmers markets and micro-breweries smack of great local cheeses, crusty pies and farm-produced ice cream that beckon a visit to the Buxton Pudding Emporium. Finest home made cake and puddings and local artisan produce radiate High Peak pleasure with a tasting plate menu including 6 month mature ‘Fabulous Fruitcake’, which made from scratch smiles with a slice of Peakland White Cheese.

Minutes away is the Opera House, Pavillion Gardens and distinguished Town Baths and Pump Rooms, whose renowned natural warm spring water still flows freely from St Anne’s Well. Steeped in history on the River Wye puts Buxton on the careertraveller radar for a return Peak District visit as we head gluttonously towards Bakewell for a slice of legendary Bakewell Pudding.
Greeted by Throngs of visitors in this former saxon settlement awaits a haven of quaint honey coloured buildings offset by a hillside steepled church and riverside location.

New heights are reached on the Derbyshire Peak fringe and Lower Derwent Valley as we drive to spa town Matlock Bath, once called ‘Little Switzerland’ by the Victorians. Encircled by dramatic rocky hills we head for Derbyshire’s oldest tourist attraction Heights of Abraham and are blown away by this sky-high hilltop country park of fun. Enchanting cable cars inspired by the Alps take us on a breath-taking gondola ride through treetops overlooking the Derbyshire Dales, stunning!

The forest summit brings 60 acres of family entertainment from underground cavern adventure to woodland Punch and Judy with spectacular vistas dotted everywhere. Spoilt for choice we start with the Great Masson Cavern tour, which takes us on a geological journey of mining and lead ore in a show of electrically lit chambers. Tinkers Mine Shaft viewing platform continues the glittering rock story with panoramic views of the Derwent Valley and Peak District and celebrates Derbyshire’s industrial heritage.

Eye catching Victoria Prospect Tower adds a 19th century lookout for 360 views of all the park has to offer, including amphitheatre, Woodland Adventure Park and life size metallic cows that tribute RHS Chelsea Flower Show award winner Lee Besthall. Amongst the play and picnic areas we discover fossils in the Fossil Factory and uncover the cable car installation and transformation in the Masson Pavillion.

Photographs and film portray the love and toil behind this wonderfully restored pleasure playground that roars with Derbyshire pride and culture, most befitting of a Heights’ Ploughman in the Vista Restaurant. An array of award winning Derbyshire pork pie with local cheese and a pint of locally brewed Chatsworth Gold ale bring summer to the outdoor terrace with the best dining view in the Peak District fringes.

As we head home with a slice of the Peak District National Park, all 555 square miles, we pass the Chatsworth Estate whose imposing house and parkland, sprinkled with flocks of sheep, is an excuse to return soon!

Further information:

Peak District & Derbyshire Official Tourist Information
The Heights of Abraham
YHA Hartington

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Careertraveller travels south to Sussex for a historical and wild woodland experience that bursts with colour, beauty and cutting edge science.

Just a 45-minute train journey from London Victoria to Haywards Heath railway station and a 6-mile bus/taxi ride transports us to the botanical plant paradise called Wakehurst. Greeted by a majestic Grade 1 listed Elizabethan Mansion we enter an estate of flora spread over 500 acres worth of stunning Grade II* listed heritage garden, under lease from the National Trust and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

We head for Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, whose large Glass House structure banks seeds from worldwide plant species that are at risk of extinction and useful for society. We learn how Kew and the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) is making a difference around the world by preserving and conserving seeds which could potentially provide food and medicine to future generations across the continents. Dried and stored at -20 in laboratory storage vaults is a display of the pioneering science and technology behind Wakehurst’s botanical horticulture and nature conservation research and target of storing seeds from 25% of the world’s most bankable plants by 2020!

Stories of plants in crisis to those with vegetal remedies reveals Kew’s Surviving or Thriving exhibition on plants and us with an interactive showcase of objects covering topics such as climate change and medicine. Engaged and educated we step into a an exceptional display of botanical treasure with plant-derived chemicals that fight human disease to a futuristic garden with plants that thrive in a hotter climate and respond well to increasing carbon dioxide.

Excited and challenged by this family friendly hub of biodiversity is an excuse to head for the nearby Seed Café for some well-earned sustenance before joining a free garden tour that starts in the sweeping Chapel Lawn.

Situated in a garden of gardens we take a stroll beneath an array of ancient yew trees that introduce us to Gerald Loder, later known as Lord Wakehurst who purchased Wakehurst in 1903. Our quintessential guide sets the scene for the estate’s changing landscape with a historical context of Loder’s horticultural interests and well-documented plant hunting collections. Bequeathed to the nation in 1963 and managed by Kew in 1965 is our introduction to the tour and we learn that documented plant collections used for scientific research, education and display make Wakehurst a botanic garden.

We become acquainted with the variegated Wedding Cake Tree known as ‘Cornus controversa variegata’ whose tiered branches and creamy white flowers offer an idyllic focal point for the grounds. As the ground floor of Mansion House opens out onto the romantic gardens, it is of no surprise to hear that the botanic garden accommodates open-air theatre, weddings and outdoor events.

Strolling through the stately trees and beautifully manicured lawns and borders in a labyrinth of well signposted pathways is one of Britain’s rarest trees called the Plymouth Pear. With seeds preserved at Wakehurst to reverse the decline of one of Britain’s endangered ‘Pyrus cordata‘, Kew’s commitment to plant health and conservation is reinforced.

Approaching Mansion Pond we enter a fairy-tale location where welcoming ducks, water lilies and encompassing evergreen trees immerse us in peaceful shades of green. Our guide explains the route around the estate is approximately 2.3 miles and for a 45-minute tour we agree on a circuit of seasonal colour to embrace summer at Wakehurst.

Plants grouped geographically add a touch of magic as we journey through the northern and southern hemispheres from Asia and Australasia to Europe, America and Africa. Between the blue and mauve Japanese water irises in the heavenly Iris Dell and exotic hilly Himalayan Glade we enjoy feeling lost amongst the dragonflies in the Water Garden and bees in the Pollination Garden.

Worth a mention are the Maidenhair ‘Gingko biloba’ tree from South East Asia and yellow flowered Hypericum, known as St Johns Wort, bring developments in plant science and traditional herbal medicine to the botanical world of gardening.

Our tour ends at the West Mansion Border where seasonal highlights present a kaleidoscopic row of sun reaching flowers that lead us into the careertraveller favourite Walled Garden. Inside this English cottage garden is a sanctuary of bloom and blossom that beam with colour and wildlife amongst a string of gravel paths dotted with pockets of well-placed benches that radiate peace.

Wakehurst is a treasure chest of beauty and detail bursting with seasonal surprises that leave you wanting more. As we wander Coronation Meadow we revel in a carpet of wildflowers inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales, where seeds scattered by local school children in 2015 boost wildlife and flora. A jewel in the crown!

Further down in Westwood Valley is a verdant feast of trees and shrubs that hint of the Far East alongside Westwood Lake, whose wetland home of flora and fauna and curvaceous boardwalk are a nature lover’s picnic.

Nearby the 150-acre Loder Valley Nature Reserve with 300 plant species is the excuse to revisit Wakehurst in what is justifiably classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the High Weald of Sussex.

Further information:
Wakehurst
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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Cambridge University Botanic Garden – June 2019

by Emma Bumpus on June 24, 2019

Summer takes Careertraveller on a scenic train ride to Cambridge, where just a 5 minute walk awaits a verdant 40-acre paradise at Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

Walking into one of the largest University-owned botanic gardens in the world begins with a kaleidoscopic show of meadow flowers in the Garden Research Plots used to grow plants for research at the university. Hues of sapphire coloured cornflowers and blazing red poppies lead us past the garden’s Garden Café whose renowned patisserie and beautiful surroundings make this a perfect day out.

Attracted by the sound of rippling water is a journey to the heart of the garden where visitors gather irresistibly by a cast iron Fountain whose giant waterlily leaf-like pads bubble with joy. Situated beautifully between the Gilbert Carter Woodland and Main Lawn tributes the work of designer David Mellor (1930-2009), whose 1970 completion offers a dash of twentieth-century to this landscape dating back to 1846.

Spoilt for choice in an oasis of 8000 plant species from 141 countries across the world we uncover a plethora of plants and trees in dedicated spaces honouring John Stevens Henlow, Professor of Botany at Cambridge University from 1825-1861. Dedicated to the study of plants and origin, his vision of extending a botanical garden into a zone of beauty for public pleasure comes alive with meandering gravel paths set against a backdrop of mature trees, patchwork gardens and variegated colour. It is of no surprise we learn that Charles Darwin was his most famous student!

In a heady haze of flora we aim for the Dry Garden whose plot of drought plants and paved area reveal an experiment into water wise gardening with imposed hose pipe ban! Designed to inspire and educate we discover drought plants and gardening techniques for conserving water in a dry climate and learn that Cambridge is one of the driest parts of Great Britain.

From water to fens we land in the neighbouring Fen Display where rocks, waterlogged soil and streams house plants and wildlife in a wet and wild landscape. Water from the Midlands and East Anglia filters through rocks, whose chalk-based calcium provides a living habitat for grass and reeds, including water loving Yellow Flag Iris, whose large sunshine flowers illuminate a pretty woodland reed bed.

Sweeping through the Rose Garden is a burst of summer in raised beds of bee attracting mauve and violet geranium and lavender. Yew enclosed benches provide a heavenly scent infused pit stop and celebrate the success of geneticist Charles Chamberlain Hurst who between 1922-1947 unravelled the modern rose genealogy in the garden.

Keen to learn more we head for the Understanding Plants display, a new addition to the garden that exhibits research from the Department of Plant Sciences investigating how plants tell the time. Greeted by two curved fences in the shape of a clock are beds of thought provoking plants that reveal how flowers in the morning and evening are controlled by a 24-hour plant clock.

Learning how plants recognise night and day brings us close to nature and encompasses us in an outdoor laboratory and classroom, which often accommodates university students and volunteers amongst schools and colleges.

Hunger for learning is a grass stretch towards the beautifully manicured Cory Lawn whose blossoming borders radiate year round colour and variety; the perfect setting for a break at the Garden Café whose adjoining terrace smacks of flavoursome views.

A free afternoon tour is a trip to the the renowned Glasshouse Range where we meet our guide, whose plant knowledge and enthusiasm takes us on a horticultural journey around the garden. Inside the Range we encounter different glasshouses with global plants from alpine Mountain House and cacti filled Arid Lands to Tropical Rainforests and Careertraveller favourite Tropical Wetlands. Exotic eye candy appears in the form of lush plantations surrounding a rice paddy with giant Santa Cruz waterlily, Victoria cruziana from North Argentina and Paraguay, whose leaves grow up to 2 metres in diameter!

Rainforest treasure from the Philippines appears in the form of evergreen climber Jade Vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, whose luminous blue and pendulous flowers attract pollinating bats at twilight in their natural habitat.

From the hot and steamy glasshouse we step outside for a tour of seasonal highlights that take us through a majestic woodland tree collection arranged systemically in families. From Persion Ironwood to Giant Redwood, trees form an intrinsic part of the garden with policies in place to maintain their arboretum status.

The adjacent Systemic Beds delivers an abundance of colour and texture with plants grouped in species for scientific purposes. An introduction to the Squirting Cucumber aka Ecballium elaterium and Mexican yucca leaf Beschorneria yuccoide (Asparagus family) are the tip of the iceberg as we walk the 3 metre high Rising Path that offers stunning aerial views of dicotyledon plants.

As we exit past the Bee Borders, a honeypot of bee friendly flowers designed to provide food all season long, we discover the bee population is in decline. Sprays of cottage flowers especially the Common Foxglove are a display of food with tubular petals that act as runways for bees. Beautiful!

Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a great day out for everyone and within easy access of Cambridge city centre. Details of events; Science on Sundays talks, tours and range of adult courses and workshops can be found on their website below.

Further Information

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

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Wrest Park, Bedfordshire April 2019

by Emma Bumpus on April 26, 2019

Spring takes careertraveller to Wrest Park in Bedfordshire where 92 acres of beautifully maintained landscaped gardens and exceptionally restored architecture epitomise English Heritage.

First impressions walking through the wisteria-lined Walled Garden is one of quintessential England, where sheltered brick walls shimmer with pendulous lilac-blue blooms. Charmed by this magical space is a step into England’s story of aristocracy, history and colour, unveiling 300 years of landscape design.

A series of secret garden-like archways transports us to the Italian Garden where a flush of bold coloured flowers explode in symmetrical borders true to their original planting pattern. Observed by Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit statue is a reminder to look out for the estate’s 40 ornamental statues that cleverly decorate and accentuate different aspects of the gardens and woodland.

Overlooked by a subtropical conservatory is an introduction to the striking French style Mansion and exotic taste and travels of the de Grey family, who owned and lived at Wrest Park for over 600 years. Entering the conservatory’s iron framed side doors is a step into the world of Henrietta de Grey whose adored Sitting Room offers elongated views through the sweet scented glasshouse and Italian and Walled Gardens.

Beyond banana plants and palms awaits more floral treasure with the French Parterre, a boxed formal flower garden with scroll-patterned beds bursting with Spring fever. Positioned perfectly below the Mansion’s terrace is an extraordinary vista of sweeping parkland perfect for families, couples, photographers and tourists. A pathway fit for horse drawn carriages takes the eye through Portuguese laurel lined trees, which pruned immaculately for long distant view of the estate, creates a trail of architectural verdant beauty.

Detail and beauty defines this enchanting parkland from corner to corner including the fountain of Carrara marble, whose figurines sit halfway between the south front facing Mansion and famous Long Water, inspired by 17th century French formal gardens.

Surrounded by corresponding pairs of mid 19th century marble statues, we take a moment at this ornamental pitstop to absorb the geometry of the gardens whose handsome buildings include architect Thomas Archer’s baroque Pavilion of 1709-1711. Built for pleasure and viewing the gardens, six bays sit below an original hand painted ceiling in trompe-l’oeil by Louis Hauduroy, which crowned with a recently restored domed roof, tributes English Heritage.

A suggested Upper Garden Walk around the woodland takes us past the Dogs’ Cemetery dating back to 1829 where a stone dog monument and accompanying headstones lovingly commemorate the de Grey pets. From here we discover the Lancelot ‘Capability Brown’Column that respectfully acknowledges the landscape gardener’s recreated garden views of the rolling green Chiltern countryside.

Full of surprises, Wrest Park weaves a trail of hidden gems including the Chinese Temple and Bridge, whose romantic lakeside views make this a parkland playground for events such as the annual Easter Adventure Quest. Being Good Friday we watch Easter kick off to a sunny start and revel in the hunt for legendary dragon eggs with Trail Guide, which on completion awards chocolate in a garden that boasts of replantation and restoration.

Mesmerised by this ever-evolving park whose grounds are full of wonder we encounter Atlas, an early 18th century Portland stone statue that stands stylishly amongst the woodland blossom. Beautifully positioned is the nearby Dairy, which having once served the de Grey family now displays a collection of 18th and 19th century statues, restored to their former glory.

Wrest Park is timeless; every corner brings style and opulence, the type that lures visitors back time and time again. We skip a tour of the house in the knowledge we will return and head to the Orangery; a French style garden pavilion built by Thomas, Earl de Grey in the 1830. Once famous for accommodating French potted orange trees bought from King Louis Philippe of France, we step beneath the glass roof panes that shine above the estate’s original ornate chimneypiece dating back to 1600.

In this enchantingly palatial and airy building just a walk away from the grand Mansion, it is no surprise to learn this ornamental haven can be hired for special events including weddings and special evening receptions.
Wrest Park is stunning in every way!

Look out for their St Georges’s Festival on Saturday 27 April – Sunday 28 April 2019 and midsummer Luna Cinema screenings this year.

Further Information:
Wrest Park
English Heritage

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Body Worlds, London February 2019

by Emma Bumpus on February 26, 2019

Adventure and curiosity entice Careertraveller & family to London for a half term interactive journey through the human body at Body Worlds London.

Perfectly situated in “Piccadilly Circus”, the capital’s so-called Times Square, stands this imposing Grade II listed former theatre, which transformed into a 21st century 7-floor attraction, smiles in a haze of neon lights, tourists and stylish boutiques.

Inside awaits an extraordinary experience of thought provoking science and art in the form of real human specimens, which masterfully preserved for educational purposes, takes us skin deep.

Our anatomical trip commences with an elevator flight to floor 5 where we are transported to a dimly lit theatre of bodies and body parts that capture flocks of visitors from families and schools to locals and sightseers worldwide, all 47 million!

Equipped with a complimentary digital audio guide we step into the world of Dr Gunther von Hagens and Dr Angelina Whalley whose mission as exhibition creators is to illuminate preventative healthcare by highlighting healthy and unhealthy life choices. 200 exhibits split over 6 galleries expose the meaning of life, which backed up with scientific facts about human anatomy and the impact lifestyle choices have on the body send us on a family friendly trail of health education.

Surrounded by corpses, skulls and organs on raised platforms and under glass, curiosity kicks in and we uncover Plastination, the preservation technique used and developed by Dr Gunther von Hagens in the 1970s to replace body fats, fluids and tissues with silicone.

Spellbindingly dramatic and fascinating, we engage in a unique visitor experience that resonates amidst a pulsating display of muscles and bones to veins, and nerves provided by body donors. With an established body donation programme of over 17,000 donors we learn Body Worlds has many exhibitions across the world from Europe, America and Oceania, of which Body Worlds London is permanent.

Three exhibition floors go deep into the Nervous, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems with bodies in poses depicting everyday life activities. From athletes and poker players to ‘plastinates’ performing realistic rescue and ponderous situations, nothing is spared as we view anatomy stripped down system by system within the skeletal system. Use of active body parts highlight how the human form is a living machine with many complex components that stem from cells and tissues and it is here we appreciate just how health and body efficiency rely on different body systems working together in harmony.

Up on the 5th Floor we focus on the Nervous System where we come up close to the heart, whose illuminated blood vessels reveal how visual anatomy is as a subject. Guided by a Body Worlds LondonFamily Trail” paper based quiz we enter the cardiovascular system and discover medical facts such as your “Your heart is roughly the size of your own fist”. We have fun using the blood pressure machine and meet the British Red Cross whose free CPR interactive workshops offers visitors hands on essential first aid experience, brilliant!

The effects of poor health come to life as we view a heart whose clogged arteries have stents inserted with a balloon catheter, a technique used to open up the arteries, increasing blood flow and reducing the risk of a heart attack. On Floor 4 we uncover the Respiratory System where lungs take centre stage with their delicate structure and anatomical properties, including breathing and transferring oxygen to the bloodstream. A comparison of healthy and unhealthy lungs, the latter impaired by smoking, is an alarming insight to poor health designed to invite visitors to question their own physiology and anatomy as part of their chosen lifestyles.

Third Floor introduces the Locomotive System where bones, cartilage, joints and the skeletal system complete our understanding of plastination with a short film displaying the process in action. Gripped by the technology, labour and science of the process, which takes a year to complete, we take a walk around skeletons and body parts from male and female donors at different stages of life. From artificial hips and knees to fetal development, we question the wonder of science and meaning of life in one of London’s busiest streets and relish this unique museum experience.

Body Worlds London is an extra-ordinary world-class attraction that gets under your skin. Mesmeric and mysterious, it should be on everyone’s bucket list!

Further information:

Body Worlds London
Body Worlds

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January takes Careertraveller on a sensory journey to the heart of South-east Asia where exotic cuisine and warm hospitality bring the Thai kitchen to London with ROSA’S THAI CAFE.

Post Christmas blues evaporate as we step into a smiley sociable galley, which decked with contemporary tables and sunny spotlights brings Thailand alive with decorative walls adorned with bamboo wallpaper.

Located in Seven Dials, Covent Garden’s ‘hidden shopping village’, we explore this converted three-storey Georgian townhouse whose listed staircase is a gateway to restaurant and private dining, perfect for intimate gatherings.

Opting for the more energetic cafe atmosphere downstairs we notice photos, which provide us with clues to Rosa’s roots and discover the name comes from an East End cafe named Rosa’s Cafe in London. Bought by Thai co-founder chef Saiphin in 2008, Rosa’s legacy lives on with a modern twist of Thai -British food that sings of seasonal ingredients, travel, hard work and sheer brilliance.

Lunch aka A-Harn Tieng is a five-flavour introduction to Thai food with a modern twist where knives are redundant at the table, all part of the Thai tradition where meat is chopped small before cooking. An opening signature Appe-Thai-Zing cocktail ignites the Careertraveller taste buds with a vibrant Ginger Collins that bursts of aromatic fresh cut lemongrass and root ginger. Not forgetting Thai mint, Tanqueray Gin and Asian botanical sour syrup, this refreshingly light and and summery aperitif makes way for a carnival of colour.

Starters bring happiness on a plate, which yellow in colour represent nobility and luck in Thai culture. Good fortune follows with Pork Skewers “Moo Ping”, which chargrilled in soy and honey marinade melt in the mouth. Garnished with herbs coriander and sliced chilli, both characteristic of Thai food is a supplementary homemade tamarind dipping sauce that adds the sweet and sour taste. We uncover two of the five primary flavours used in Thai cooking amongst others being salty, bitter and hot, which used in differing proportions produces a range of wonderfully colourful dishes.

Som Tam better known as Papaya Salad brings sunshine to the table as a Thai classic bursting with health and vitamins. Tasty, sharp and spicy is a mix of garlic, Thai fish sauce and lime juice on a bed of raw Thai papaya, fine beans, cashews, dried shrimp and tomatoes which calls for an authentic Thai beer in the name of Chang. Named after the word “elephant” in Thai, Thailand’s national animal, is a palatable bright golden brew that calls for a sample of Rosa’s Red Curry Paste Stir-Fry, whose homemade curry paste is an aromatic base for meaty moist prawns that complement fragrant steamed coconut rice. Red in colour, styles chilli as chief of the dish amongst a heavenly perfume of galangal, garlic and lemongrass herbs that typify Thai curry.

More Thai classics appear in the form of the well-known Pad Thai, which takes centre stage for presentation, colour and texture. Lime, coriander and crushed peanuts dress this good-looking stir-fry noodle dish whose mix of vegetables, firm tofu, scrambled egg and bean sprouts entertain a street food melange of deliciously sweet and savoury ingredients, not forgetting Careertraveller favourite, pungent tamarind. Fresh, wholesome and balanced, it is of no surprise to learn the rice noodles come from the Ratchaburi, province of Thailand, which make this foodie neighbourhood cafe special. Inspired with a copy of ROSA’S THAI CAFE Cookbook we skip the mango and sticky rice dessert and homemade lemongrass tea in return for learning the secrets of authentic Thai cookery!

As we leave this lively oasis of diverse gastronomy we feel blessed to have sampled some field to wok produce and generous hospitality, whose subtly gives customers ‘extra value’ with a culinary introduction to Thai culture. Just a stone’s throw away from Theatreland we inhale the buzzy excitement of London’s celebrated tourist zones Chinatown and Leicester Square and appreciate how food makes travel exceptional.

In the words of celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain: “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your religion, your tribe, your grandma.”

Further information:

ROSA’S THAI CAFE

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