Sunday, 22 September 2013

From Horse n Carriage to Dog n Track

It's official! I have the best job in the world!

Where else can someone say that their working day was spent riding on a horse drawn carriage ride around a 'magnificently timbered park and woodland'? 

Basil (left) and Arnie, two dapple grey carriage horses pulling a modern replica of an 18th C German picnic coach around Cassiobury Park and Whippendell Woods.

Last weekend I hosted our first, heritage, horse drawn carriage rides around the park. Stopping at regular intervals I pointed out the park's interesting history including the mansion that was once the central hub of the grounds and revealing the juicy gossip and bloody endings of some of the Essex Earls who lived there.

One of the children enjoying riding up front with Lynne and Tim
       Basil and Arnie, the two dapple grey 17 hand, carriage horses enjoying a well deserved rest

Seeing the park from this perspective gave the public riding with us, the sense of how it must of felt arriving in these 'pleasure grounds' down the same carriage drive as the generations of Earls and their guests did in past centuries. These 'pleasure grounds' as they were known, were landscaped by the fashionable designers of their day, starting with Moses Cook, employed by the first Earl, Arthur Capel, in the 16th C and including many others who contributed over time, such as Humphrey Repton (where didn't Humphrey Repton leave his imprint!) and George London who in 1720, designed the Lime Avenue in Whippendell Woods.

Of course the grounds and estate didn't start with the first Earl. The land was first recorded in the Doomesday book of 1086 under the guardianship of the Abbey of St Albans and given to Richard Morrison, by King Henry V111, during the dissolution of the monasteries for his loyal support and friendship. Richard Morrison was then also knighted by the King and befitting of his new status decided to;
 'build a large house on a dry hill near a fair and pleasant river'. (now the River Gade)

Emma who runs the Cha Cha Cha tea pavilion enjoying having her photo taken with the delightful and beautiful stars of the day, the dapple grey carriage horses, Basil (left)and Arnie.

One of the highlights of the day was surprising Emma (above) who runs the Cha Cha Cha tea pavillion in the park. In the next few weeks, she is getting married and I decided to surprise her and her staff with a carriage ride around the park at the end of the day. And judging by the squeals of delight that came from behind the counter  when I told her and her staff, I can safely say that they were all delighted, especially Emma. But she deserves it as I'm always having meetings in the cafĂ© and dragging her away from her duties to discuss events and activities for the HLF project. Emma and her staff are always so accommodating and more than once has let me off paying for the odd cappuccino and piece of cake!

Emma and staff enjoying their carriage ride
                                carriage ride in the park

                                 on tip toe

And on a wet and windy night on recent staff social evening  about twenty of us boarded a different horse powered carriage -  a modern petrol driven coach to Wimbledon Dog Track!

our usual starting place and how we meant to carry on - the local watering hole.

We all decamped from the coach and reverting to type, we all headed straight to the bar to claim our free cheese 1/4 pounders and drinks that were part of the evenings package. Oh yes! we did see the dogs too;  Helen winning-(3 times) again! (she's has a habit of winning Honest Dave's staff Lottery  at work, (twice ) while all of the rest of us drowned our sorrows in beer.
My HLF project officer, Matt with other colleagues, Hayley and Helen  (she, of the wide scary eyes)with Rona in the background. The evening starts off quite sedately and then...  

But its the first time I've been to the dog track so it was an exciting night. Sadly I didn't bet because I was so busy taking photos! But they do show the madcap, friendly and slightly wild bunch I work with in my daily life.

         it all gets a bit merrier (with some dissenters) as Helen 'loadsamoney' Smith starts winning.

                                  while others are grateful for just getting their betting money back,  to..

                       others furiously studying the form to catch up with Helen 'loadsamoney' to...
the 'usual suspects'  interested only in propping up the bar,   to....
the staff displaying their dignified, sedate and impeccable decorum, to.
being more like their true selves  - letting rip!!
and that was all before the dogs had even started.
And still, we eat and drink...
at our regular Friday Lunch club
So many wonderful things have happened to me in the past 6 months; winning the Imagine Watford photo competition, to being given a photo commission for three books, to enjoying every minute of my wonderful and varied job, to now receiving a letter from the MD to tell me that I have been nominated to the final round of the SEA (Staff Excellence Awards) awards for my contribution to the community and staff I work with. It all feels a bit surreal. It seems that with every week that goes by my life gets better and better.
And so to top and tail a wonderful few weeks, (darts and indoor bowls next) I spent a great Sunday with my work colleague Rona, watching Saracens winning at the rugby.
                                Saracens win line out ball won against Bath

                                   Saracens warm up

                           Premiership rugby at Saracens Allianz Park

 cheers !


(c) copyright: Deborah Anne Brady