Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Moreton Hall in Oswestry. We were there last year and have a lovely connection to the school through a boarder exchange program at Abbotsleigh. Earlier this year Harriet Lang spent second term in Sydney and Ian and I had a lovely day out with her in the city. Her parents invited us for dinner on the weekend at their beautiful home in a barn conversion in a village called Knockin – another really pretty place. Moreton Hall is a gorgeous school set on a large acreage about 10 minutes drive from Oswestry and right by another village called Weston Rhyn. The school is currently celebrating its centenary year with all the events that go with it including an art exhibition in a Bond Street gallery last weekend and the grand opening of their new science block, with six labs and light filled spaces which is still to come, as soon as the special guest visitor can be announced. It all sounded very exciting.
I talked with the Year 3-6 students first then had the pleasure of seeing the Year 7 girls, may of whom remembered me from my visit last year in June. The school feels rather like a big family and many of the girls board – over 300 in fact. The Moreton Firsts (or Junior School) caters for boys and girls but there are only girls in the secondary school.
I had a lovely time with Kath Ford (Head of Moreton First) and her students, who laughed in all the right places and were very keen participants in the drama. The Year 7 girls were terrific too and I talked about the stories and also about the process I go through to write. They had lots of great questions. Last night we had drinks with the Headmaster Jonathan Forster and his lovely wife Paula, his PA Ruth and Caroline and Sean Lang. Jonathan and Paula are heaps of fun and have the most gorgeous little dog called Minnie, a wire haired miniature Dachshund. She has a face a lot like a terrier and is very affectionate. I mistakenly called her a cross breed – she’s not (it was the short legs that got me and her rounded face). Anyway, I think Minnie might make a lovely addition to one of my character’s animal menageries in the future.
We didn’t actually get to the book signing yesterday so it was lovely to be able to go back to Moreton today and see the girls and sign all of their books. They had lots more questions too.
We drove in and out of Oswestry past Brogyntyn Hall (the house we visited last year which in my books is Caledonia Manor). I still dream of buying the place and restoring it to its former grandeur – although I would need to win the Euro Millions lottery first. I heard this week that Robbie Williams had been keen to buy it but even with all his money he was put off by the mammoth renovation and the money pit of costs. I’ve taken some photos of the stone walls along the roadway and the gate house. There’s one of the hall in the distance too. The derelict stable block with the circular window belongs to the house across the road – another stunning mansion whose name I don’t know. The stable block sits right on the edge of the road and would make a gorgeous home.
This morning was grey and wet – then it started to snow. Apparently it had snowed quite a bit overnight and the hills around Oswestry were blanketed in white. It was so pretty – a quintessential English scene. The snow stopped mid morning and the sun came out. Ian and I finished up at Moreton Hall and drove back into Oswestry to see Carrie from Booka and give her some more orders. We picked up some sandwiches at M&S Simply Foods (please, please, please come to Australia) and then headed off toward Cheltenham. We avoided the freeways for much of the time and travelled through gorgeous villages. There was one place that really caught my eye – Morville, which is home to Morville Hall. Morville looks as if it must have been an Estate Village. Rows of chocolate box cottages and a beautiful church in the centre. We went through Much Wenlock and Stourbridge before hitting the freeway and arriving in Cheltenham.
We’re staying the next five nights in a beautiful Regency building which has been converted into serviced apartments. Ours is very well laid out and just a short walk from the centre of town. There are breakfast goodies including cereals, bread and spreads and croissants so it wouldn’t matter if you arrived late, there would be supplies for the morning. We’ve discovered this evening that the nicest part of Cheltenham is the area known as Montpellier. There are great shops and restaurants. We walked for miles and then found a cosy (and busy) Italian restaurant.. We’ve just walked back now and it’s one degree outside with a clear moonlit sky. Tomorrow is forecast to rain. Looks like I will be editing.