Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Distancing Diairies - 5th and 6th May, 2021

 On Wednesday morning I awoke to glorious sunshine. After a wander around the garden, I did my Wii Fit work out, caught up with Blogland, checked eBay and clicked Buy It Now on a skirt that had been listed minutes earlier. After breakfast, we posed for outfit photos, Jon wore the western shirt and suede boots he'd bought from the charity shop on Sunday.


I wore my vintage Phool midi skirt, Gohill's exotic snakeskin boots and a top made from a recycled sari. Both of us put big coats on top immediately afterwards, the sun had vanished and it was horribly cold.

Our destination was Pipers, a traditional family-run garden centre, a twelve-mile drive away that has been growing and selling plants since 1947. By the time we arrived the heavens had opened and the rain was bouncing off Gilbert but, fortunately, most of the stock was undercover and I was delighted to see huge ginger and white cat curled up fast asleep on the counter.

After choosing a few plants and a sack of Pearlite we drove home via Liz and Al's where we had a coffee and were able to sit outside as the rain had abated. We had a wander around their allotment and a catch-up but were all dithering with cold after 40 minutes. Silly me for packing my gloves away on Monday!

Back at home, we unloaded Gilbert and had the rest of the leek and potato soup for lunch. I had grand plans for filling the garden waste bin and planting out my window boxes for the afternoon but it was just too wet and cold to bother. While Jon got Gilbert ready for his National Trust adventure in the morning I continued with the genealogy instead.


My 4x great grandparents, Harriet and Andrew (the gardener) Chapman had nine children, six of whom lived until adulthood. On my inherited family tree, next to their second eldest child, James Robison, Great-aunt Phyllis had scribbled Australia, which piqued my interest. Did I have family in Australia? After typing his name & date of birth into Ancestry.com I soon had my answer, James had died in 1883 in Woodend, Victoria. Although I wasn't able to access the immigration records, another person who'd researched my family tree had uploaded an extract from the journal he'd kept during his voyage. I couldn't believe my luck, how utterly wonderful to read my 3x great-uncle's words, brimming with optimism, curiosity and joy to be alive despite having been, at this point, at sea for two months.


I struggled to decipher James' 19th Century copperplate handwriting so this is a very rough translation:

Wednesday, Oct 17th 1849
At 6 this morning spoke to the ship which was ahead of us yesterday, she came within 30 yards of us and proved to be the Thomas Fielding from Liverpool to Port Phillip with immigrants 58 days out. She had taken the trade winds at Madeira and had only had to reef topsails once, hitherto had had one only wet day. Three berths on board, we exchanged longitude, compared chronometers, a deal of chaff exchanged with the passengers supplementing their soup and bouilli. She carried a great deal of canvas and gradually drew ahead of us on the starboard side. 
Wishing us goodbye and promising to report us on their arrival. Had had five deaths on board, was nearly out of sight at sunset. Several boobys following the ship.
Wind W and light, Lat 36.37 Lon 13.19

Thursday, Oct 18th 1849
Wind NW and light this morning. Saw a whale on the starboard quarter about a mile distant flowing up the water like a jet of steam every two minutes. Beautiful uplifting day. Took a great deal of exercise in the shape of walking up and down the deck.
Wind NW and M, Lat 36.44 Lon 16.15

Friday, Oct 19th 1849
Warm sun shining day. Wind west until 6pm when it shifted S and blew pretty fish. Ship walking through it like smoke all night. Read Howitt's journal, smoked and finished the portrait of the ship's cook.
Wind N&E to N, Lat 37.8 Lon 19.25

Saturday, October 20th 1849
Water looking quite green for the last two days owing to our being on the Great Bank of Agulhas. Stiff breeze from the southward and the ship flying through it, driving the spray before her as far as the jib boom end and creating thousands of little rainbows in the sunshine. Plenty of albatrosses, boobys, cape pigeons and whale birds. Flying about the ship, as usual, the tops of the waves breaking into little bits of white foam and everybody in good spirits at the prospect of a speedy end to the voyage.
Wind SSE, Lat 22.45 Lon 22.45


So many unanswered questions. I'd love to know why James travelled to Australia. He was too early for the Gold Rush but did he get involved in it when it started in 1851? By the ease in which he moved about the ship, he certainly wasn't a convict. I'm also curious about the portrait he was painting of the ship's cook. Could he have been the artist behind the miniature I inherited of Harriet, his mother? Do any of my Australian readers know Woodend? 

SOURCE

This took me up to teatime when we ate Morrocan pasties with potato lattices and homemade hummus. We spent the evening watching Waking the Dead and the brilliant Great British Sewing Bee, accompanied with rum and cola.


Thursday was the reverse of the previous day, the pitter-patter of rain on the window panes woke me early but by the time I'd got halfway through my Wii Fit workout the sun was shining. We had porridge for breakfast and, after Jon had made sandwiches, we made our way to the Georgian splendour that is Attingham Park in sunny Shropshire, a forty-five-minute drive away.


Built in 1785 for Noel Hill, Ist Baron Berwick, a former MP for Shropshire who received his title in 1784 from the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, after his work in reorganising the East India Company. Hill already owned a house, Tern Hall, on the Attingham Estate but with the money he received along with his title he commissioned the architect George Steuart to design a newer and grander house around the existing hall.


The estate originally comprised 4,000 acres but in 1800 it was extended to twice the amount. In 2018 over 470,000 people visited the estate, making it the fourth most popular National Trust property. 



Although the car park was rammed, the estate is so big that at times you have the place to yourself.


As long as you don't mind sharing with Scrap, Attingham's resident cat. 


We've visited Attingham many times but our most memorable has to be when Jon & I spent a gloriously sunny day there with Ann and Jos back in 2018 (HERE). 


















Don't be fooled by my sunny photos, it was bitterly cold and a couple of times we had to run for shelter beneath the trees whilst the hail bounced off the grass but a glorious life-affirming couple of hours despite the inclement weather!


After a leisurely lunch in Gilbert, we headed back home and spent the afternoon pottering around the garden planting our new purchases, dividing up the crocosmia and watering everything in. 


Tea was pizza with a salad which included my home-grown micro leaves and Jon's mustard cress - yum!


I'm off to watch Waking the Dead and to endeavour to stay awake, those few hours of walking around Attingham have wiped me out. I promise to catch up with comments, blogs and messages tomorrow.

See you soon!

50 comments:

  1. How wonderful that you have managed to find online an excerpt from a travel diary of your ancestor travelling to Australia. It's great you were able to decipher it, historical writing is hard to read. Individual handwriting is always- individual and what makes it more difficult is that writing styles change over the years. Isn't it fascinating to read something written such a long time ago? I wonder what became of him!
    Your National Trust visits are always a joy to read about. The photos you took are so sunny and beautiful. I googled Attingham Park and no wonder it is such a popular NT destination. I found one bird eye perspective photograph of it that's just stunning. The gardens are amazing. You always dress so stylishly too!

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    1. I was thrilled that someone had shared the diary! That copperplate is really hard to decipher though, I think I managed to get the basic jist but there's a few words I couldn't make head nor tail of! xxx

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  2. What a glorious blog to wake up to. Thank you both so much. Oh to be young again. How iwould love to be going plant shopping. This is the best next thing Jon is quite the model; as are you.
    I have been woken by birds on my roof. Much too early. Wish I could slip in your pocket and go shopping and gardening with you. ❤️
    .

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    1. I wish you lived closer, we could take you National Trusting with us - they even have plant shops in some of their properties! xxx

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  3. I have been enjoying your genealogy posts. A few years back I had a go at mine. I was unable to find much about my fathers family, but a distant cousin had posted my mothers online. It went back to 1515 England with mom's ancestor arriving in Massachusetts in 1640. According to the family tree I am a distant cousin to Daniel Webster the statesman and George Eastman of Eastman Kodak fame.

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    1. There's a few interesting discoveries in your family tree then, Darkelady!
      You must be distantly related to Linda McCartney (Paul's late photographer wife), she was one of the Eastmans! xxx

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  4. Another beautiful adventure! I love that you take us along with you to the National Trust visits, and of course you were dressed beautifully as always. More great work on the ancestry research and what a treasure that diary is! Enjoy your evening Vix. XXX

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  5. I live on the Woodend estate in South Australia and taught at Woodend Primary so often when Googling something the other Woodend in Victoria would come up haha We have driven across to Melbourne many times and once drove through it to Bendigo. My niece lives outside Bendigo now so would go through Woodend every week.
    By coincidence I also had access to a document from the library archived here, written by a relative in the mid 1800's. He, his brother and my gg-grandfather also arrived in SA in 1849 but the brother settled in Victoria. It could have been that there was land available for a song :) I see from the probate notice in the newspaper he was described as a gentleman. He died at St Mary's parsonage in Woodend, the home of his son-in-law. His son was a politician. You probably have that

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    1. Fancy there being two Woodends in Australia, very confusing. I'm excited that you used to drive through James' town every week.
      Fancy your ancestor also arriving the Australia in the same year. What a coincidence. I googled James' son after yoy mentioned he was a politician which led to an even more interesting link to MP James' sons! xxx

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  6. How exciting to find your 3xgreat uncles journal, beautifully written, not just the handwriting, but the content too, he really captured the moment with interesting detail - something really special for you to keep. You look fabulous this week in your outfits - the orange sari top is beautiful.

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    1. I was thrilled that someone had shared that extract from his journal. He writes in quite a contemporary way, I think and I loved his sketch of the ship, an articate man with an eye for beauty, I'm proud of being realted to him!
      That sari top is an All About Aud, such a useful thing for travelling! xxx

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  7. I wonder why he went to Australia maybe he wanted a change?? That journal is priceless and you need to keep it safe. That visit to that property was lovely I love seeing deer wandering around without a care in the world.
    I cannot wait to see your garden in full bloom I bet it is a sight to see, my mum was saying you guys still have the odd touch of frost. She even bought a cheap can of de-icer just in case of anymore bless her.
    We fly home tomorrow. We have a month to sort everything out. My mind is a mess and we have to stay in a covid hotel. Which is annoying so that’s 10 days gone . Take care and keep safe love and huggs

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    1. A pretty radical change! I reckon he'd received his share of the inheritance after his paremnts had died and his money would have afforded him a decent piece of land in Australia.
      Hope the journey is without drama and that you can get to say your goodbyes and see your parents. Much love! xxx

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  8. Well I went off at a right tangent. I linked across to your visit to Attingham with Ann & Jos then moved on to your post about our visit to Chester. Then thought about finding Ann’s post about it and I’m going to have a look at mine after. It was so nice to get together. I’ve been thinking about ann & jos as I have it in my diary that they would have been visiting again soon. I guess that’s not happening now. Fingers crossed for 2022.
    When I saw your rejigged Sari I thought about the rejigged sarongs on the sewing bee this week. Your sari is the winner for me. What did you think of the Frida Kahlo section. I as quite excited by it but a bit disappointed with the results. Love that programme and the jewellery one on bbc. Have you watched that xxx

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  9. attinghams park is more like a fairytale landscape then a common garden! complete with gentle deer, a sweet looking, pretty dressed fairy and a troll with pompom hat ;-)
    to think to sail - for weeks - to the very unknown other end of the world..... how cool that someone unearthed this writing of your 3x great-uncle. looking at the elegant lines of his words he really cold be the miniature painter!
    2 days ago i almost got the furcoat out again for a trip..... our winds are permanent stormy and coooold.....
    one day we all we be travelling again - and visiting friends.
    xxxxx

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    1. How the rich spent their money back then, investing in their surroundings and ensuring they remained beautiful for years to come.
      I'd have loved to have been a passenger on one of those long voyages - that's as long as I was wealthy enough to afford a berth. What sights they must have seen after a lifetime spent in the British provinces - whales, albatrosses, incredible land masses.
      I'm fed up with the weather teasing us, warm and sunny one minute and hail and the threat of frost the next! xxx

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  10. Tracing ancestors - so interesting! The Great Bank of Agulhas referred to where the water turned green means they were sailing around South Africa at that time of writing. My ancestors left the UK for SA around the same time. Oh, and the deer stole my heart, so gentle looking. Rgds, Lise

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    1. Hello Lise! I had a look on the map when James mentioned The Great Bank of Agulhas, what a sight that must have been compared to the British Midlands where he couldn't have been furhet drom the sea.
      What adventurers our ancestors were, it makes me really proud! xxx

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  11. Lovely photos of Attingham House and it's gardens, especially those adorable deer.

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    1. I can't believe how tame those deer are! x

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  12. Ah, Attingham Park! What a memorable day that was! How lovely to see it in Springtime. The blossoming orchard looks idyllic, and so do those photos of you walking in the woods. Magical! And you met Scrap too!
    Pipers reminds me a bit of our local, also family-run, garden centre.
    Oh, and another installment of the genealogy adventures. How utterly wonderful to be able to read James's journal. I do keep my fingers crossed that you'll be able to find out more on the Australian link. xxx

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    1. Wasn't it a fabulous day? So hot the glue holding my sunglasses together melted...happy days! I can't wait until you and I, Jos & Jon can meet up again. xxx

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  13. those beautiful photos of the woods and river are just as I imagine that they would be. Quite mystical, to my eyes. The early settlers to Down Under, australia and new zealand - they came to lands where they may have been promised homes, roads, shops, but certainly in New Zealand - they did not get this. Local Maori took them in and housed and fed them. Family trees are so fascinating, and to have found excerts from James journal - an absolute treasure.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ratnamurti.
      I've read a few novels based on real-life adventures and it certainly wasn't a easy way to start a new life. xxx

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  14. Interesting figural art here! That woven vine woman and the peacock hewn from a stump are an interesting contrast with the more traditional sculptures. * I'd buy a novel that displayed your over-the-shoulder woodland photo or Jon on the bench: what are their stories? what happens next?

    An illustrated journal reads as a real window to the past. Have you investigated the history of James' ship. Because of maritime laws (and insurance requirements) records for the 19th century are surprisingly complete. Try www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia

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    1. I love how the National Trust incorporate quirky contemporary pieces into their traditional gardens. The poor peacock was looking a bit rotten close-up, though.
      Thank you so much for that link. I've not managed to find any mention of James yet but I've noticed in my research that spellings can vary wildly and I'm wonderering if he spent time in South Africa before moving on to Australia as he'd mentioned being close to the end of the journey in his journal. If so passenger lists for ships leaving Africa are said to be extremely hard to come by. xxx

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  15. Awesome outfits here, Vix, and so very cool to read your ancestor's journal! There is nothing like writing to really bring it home: someone wrote this, their hand touched it. How curious about the Australian connection. I hope you find out more about this branch of the family.

    Your travels are always so fun to see! Of course, Lord Jon charms the cats wherever he goes, right? The close-up of you looking back in the green woods is stunning. You should frame it.

    Have a great weekend! I hope you get some sun!

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    1. Thanks, Sheila! I'm longing for the days that I can leave my coat at home and brave bare legs!
      Jon's such a flirt when it comes to cats, Scrap was in his arms in seconds (don't tell Frank!) xxx

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  16. Hi Vix, I live in Melbourne and Woodend is a favourite weekend spot for us to go "antiquing". I am a historian, and have specialised in Victoria. Lots of men travelled prior to the Gold Rush as there was the perception that there were fortunes to be made here. He writes he is reading Howitt's journal which may be the actual journal/ magazine but I wonder if he is referring to Godfrey Howitt's book? Godfrey arrived at Port Phillip (Melbourne/ Victoria) in 1840. He farmed on the Heidelberg Road until his return to England in 1844. He wrote "Impressions of Australia Felix During Four Years Residence in that Colony (London, 1845)" which was regarded as a highly reliable description of Australian life and the possibility of making your way. Many a young man was enticed by reading this account.

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    1. Hello Lynette! I love that Woodend is a popular place for antique shopping, that's brilliant.
      That's so interesting about Howitt's book being such a draw for young men of the time. Both James' parents had died by 1846 which makes me wonder if he was using his share of the inheritance to start a new, and no doubt, a more exciting life.
      Thank you so much for your information! xxx

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  17. How fascinating. Who knows what you'll find out next.

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    1. I can't believe how many interesting people I've found along certain branches of both of trees! x

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  18. The few time I seen the British Sewing Bee I real like it, I even thought of buying the DVD to it, as well as Dr Who.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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    1. There's a book as well, peopel say it's excellent. x

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  19. I always love when you share your NT visits. You must have many properties close by.
    It looks glorious at Attingham, especially in the woods. The bluebells are so pretty. X

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    1. Thanks, Jules! Attingham is wonderful, even in the hail! xxx

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  20. Your genealogy journey has been awesome! I have been interested in family history since I was seventeen and had some spare time in between A level lessons which I spent in the library looking through the Victoria County History of Lancashire for mentions of the name Schofield (my maiden name)! That was nearly 50 years ago! For the last few years I have been doing a One-Name Study of a rather unusual family name in my family tree - Rigmaiden - but it has been an interesting journey through history. The Guild for One Name Studies registers any surname that people want to study and it involves collecting all mentions of a surname, not necessarily in family trees, from the first mention, which is usually the 11th or 12th century in this country. I also love Shropshire and lived there for some time when I was the librarian at Oswestry College in the 1980s; I used to visit Attingham Park when they used to put on open-air Shakespeare productions. Great photos, as always

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    1. Hello Julie! It's totally absorbing, isn't it? I've always loved Who Do You Think You Are? I love seeing what people did for a living and searching online to see what life was like for an 18th century shoemaker or a gardener, I can lose hours!
      I've never heard of a Rigmaiden before, what an unusual surname and am excellent tip if I come across any ancestors with similarly odd names! xxx

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  21. Hey good morning lovely lady! Well new favourite Vix photo alert - the one of you looking over your shoulder in the woods at Attingham - it is fab and would make a lovely painting(maybe you could hint to Liz or your talented blog friends ) I have told hubster we must join the NT aain we were members years ago. How fascinating you have family that went to Aus I must confess that although I did a tour of Europe I never did see enough of my own country! incl Victoria so can't help I'm afraid. I am feeling on top of the world again thank you. The rain is being kind to all of my new plant babies!!Have a great week-end Shazxx

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    1. Thanks so much, Shaz!! You really ought to rejoin the NT, we never fail to return from our expeditions brimming with ideas and inspired by planting schemes. The houses in Wales and England open next week - eeeekkkk!!!
      You sound like me, I know parts of India like the back of my hand but there's so much of England I've never seen.
      The new plants are looking so healthy, aren't they? I do wish it would just rain at night though so we can enjoy our gardens by day. xxx

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  22. Hi Vix, sorry I don't know how else to contact you, but I thought you might like Spitalfields Life blog post 8th May all about Afghan bridal dresses -I saw them and thought of you!
    Best wishes
    Hilary

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    1. Thank you so much, Hilary. I went straight over to that blog and was in Afghan dress heaven! You are kind for thinking of me. xxx

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  23. I LOVED this week's sewing bee, though I thought a flamboyant trick was missed. (I would have made a sculpted Dahlia puff dress) It is frustrating when the international records are not available on these ancestry sites, but how amazing that you found a journal. A treasure indeed. Lulu xXx

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    1. The Sewing Bee has been utterly brilliant from the first episode, the besty one yet! Faire's Broken Column dress was inspired, as soon as she discussed what she was making Jon shouted...she's won! I'm liking your dahlia idea! xxx

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  24. Well done you on deciphering the (beautiful) copperplate handwriting. How fascinating to have an Australian connection in your family tree.

    Attingham looked lovely; I loved the wicker(?) lady and your outfit was fab. The weather has been a pain in the arse altogether and I am so looking forward to tomorrow when it's supposed to warm...

    Have a great weekend!
    xxx

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    1. That writing is gorgeous but so difficult to read. I loved James' optimism and the joy he found in his surroundings, I think it may be a family trait!
      Attingham is stunning, you could spend a couple of days there that's that many walks you can do. These odd dry warm days are a rare treat, aren't they? xxx

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  25. It's been cold here too, which is such a disappointment after some lovely warm days. Of course any good National Trust property should come with a resident cat, cows and deer.
    How exciting to find journal entries written by your 3X Uncle James! What an adventure he must have had.

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    1. I'm so bored of the cold now, I'm hoping summer will be glorious - a pay off for the gloomy spring!
      I love novels set aboard ship (Star of the Sea is a favourite) so I find it incredible that James lived through those long and perilous voyages! x

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  26. Hello Vix , apologies once again for missing way too many of your posts. How interesting that you have an Australian connection and one that arrived free settler , unlike many of my convict ancestors. The transcript form his journal is wonderful . The National Trust property is just beautiful in its Spring garden glory. Must put Attingham on my visit list for when we can travel overseas again. xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix