This Journey is very close to home.
Sulgrave Manor is surrounded by beautiful rolling English countryside and is famous for being the home of George Washingtons ancestors. It houses the largest UK collection of George Washington memorabilia demonstrating the British contribution to the origins of the USA, with a separate exhibition on George's life and career in the US.
A popular tourist attraction, every year among its varied events it celebrates Independence Day, which proves a popular destination for American visitors, as they also get free admission on this day.
As locals we are very lucky to have a free pass to the Manor and all the special event days, so on a sunny July 4th we decided to pay a visit and celebrate American style!
There were coaches and lots of cars in the small car park to our right as we walked up the long gravel drive toward the Manor. As we approched the entrance we could see the American flag on the wall of the covered archway.
We entered and turned left in through the gift shop and up to the admission desk where we flashed our passes and were handed a programme and told to have a nice day.
Checking the running order of the events I was sorry to see that we had just missed one of the performances by the visiting Appalachian Dancers.
My attention was quickly diverted as we walked out into the sunny courtyard and spotted the magnificent American Eagle. He seemed very calm and was obviously used to the routine and the attention of children and their parents.
People were sitting around at the tables in the pretty courtyard drinking coffee and enjoying the sunshine while others were touring the house or looking at the exhibitions. With the high entrance price people usually make a day of it.
We are lucky just to be able to come and go as we please and we head off toward the gardens.
As we take a right turn we notice the top of a small red and white striped tent, as we get closer we realise it is a Punch and Judy show, all set up with a blanket on the ground waiting for an audience to amass before the next show.
I don't hang around, I never did like Punch and Judy!.
In the distance there is another area set up with 5 or 6 Siberian huskies surrounded by children, they have obviously pinched the Punch and Judy crowd. We continue on our way.
I am amazed at how wonderful the gardens are looking as I catch a glimpse of the Manor house and the Marquee set up on one of the lawns. It really is a beautiful place with such a tranquil feel.
We walk through the small orchard complete with pretty white beehives and I hear a Father say to the small girl holding his hand "do you see those white things" he crouches down to her level while pointing at them, "yes" she says all wide eyed, "do you know what lives in them?" he asks tenderly, she thinks for a moment, then looks up at him as she answers falteringly "parrots?".
I smile to myself as eager to see what is going on we head on toward the Manor house and the Marquee. I love the first sight of the Manor looked at face on, as you approach.
It always flies both the English and American flag from its flagpoles.
Well, the marquee and tables and chairs are empty right now, so I head toward my favourite part of the garden, the herb garden.
It is a one of The Herb Society gardens, and has different sections showing medicinal herbs, culinary herbs etc.
It is always a delight to see and smell all the wonderful plants.
We notice people moving through to the area near the Vegetable garden, we cut through the herb garden to see what is going on.
On a grassy bank are gathered a group of smart young men with American accents. It turns out that they are The Tigertones an acapella choir from Princeton University in the USA. They were nearing the end of their European tour and had been booked to entertain the visitors at the Independence day celebrations.
They are very good and the crowd that contains lots of Americans are suitably appreciative.
Next there is to be a tree planting ceremony. A Virginia Dogwood Tree is to be planted by a local MP while at the very same time in Pope's Creek, Virginia, USA, birthplace of George Washington, an English Oak is being planted.
It is filmed by one of the two National Park Service Rangers from Pope's Creek, Virgina, who has been on hand throughout the day to answer any questions from visitors.
As the Tigertones mingle with the crowd we head off back through the garden.
We make our way back round to the front of the manor, where I am struck by the beautiful flowers in front of the old window.
We see children talking to a couple and as we get closer we notice the parrot casually sitting beside them on the arm of the bench.
Then as we watch, we see the large cockatoo that was sitting on the mans lap disappear up inside his Tshirt! "he gets spooked by the wind" he told us.
It turns out that they were visiting for the day celebrations and that they take their birds out everywhere with them.
We decide that it is about time to head home for a cup of tea. So we retrace our steps back through the gate up toward the Orchard, noticing the unusual chairs dotted around for visitors to use.
Then quickly past the Punch and Judy tent. One last look back at the manor before we leave. It has been a really lovely afternoon.
Back through the shop, down the gravel drive and within 10 minutes we are back home with the kettle on. We didn't need the bus on this journey but we as we didn't want you to miss out on the day, we bought you along anyway!
Sulgrave Manor - Link
About Sulgrave Manor Garden - Link
The Princeton Tigertones - Link