FIDDLESTICKS

NORTH WEST CLOG DANCERS

Fiddlesticks’ 2011 May Tour of Hertfordshire and Berkshire

This was Fiddlesticks Ninth annual May Bank Holiday tour. In previous years the side had visited various parts of England, and also abroad.

The 2011 Tour was slightly different from those of previous years in that initially we had not intended to have a Tour that year, as the number of “existing Fiddlesticks” had dwindled and Tours, while being greatly enjoyable, are pretty strenuous.

So, the 2011 Tour, arranged much later than normal, was different in two respects; it was slightly shorter than usual and with fewer dance spots, giving more time for relaxing, recovering and sightseeing. The second aspect in which it is different was that we welcomed several “new Fiddlesticks” who had joined us the previous September, and who were joining us on tour for the first time, and we were delighted to have them.

The Tour included several places which the organisers knew well and all of which were enjoyed by the participants, whether new to them or not.

Twenty nine dancers, musicians and friends enjoyed the three day tour centred around the Cophthorne Hotel, Slough.

SATURDAY 28th MAY

Two minibuses collected all the participants and both proceeded to Baldock. Here we had lunch at The White Lion, High Street, Baldock having first performed outside the pub. Fortunately for our first engagement of the weekend, the audience was small. Baldock was founded by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. The town has retained its old- world charm, with most of the town centre buildings being built before the mid 19th century. After lunch a short drive took us to Knebworth House. Here our first dance spot was at the Victorian Bowling Alley, a grassy area where we danced in shoes and performed mainly garland dances, which look so good in a rural setting. The audience fluctuated as people passed by visiting other parts of the extensive grounds. The current members of the Lytton family are the 19th generation to have lived in Knebworth House. Their ancestors include Victorian novelist, playwright and politician Edward Bulwer Lytton, “the pen is mightier than the sword” and the architect sir Edwin Lutyens. Knebworth Park is best known these days worldwide as Britain’s largest music venue. After time allowed to look around the grounds, our next dance spot was at The Barns, Knebworth House, a nice paved surface near the refreshment area. Dancing got started as soon as a shower of rain had passed. (Here we provided the backdrop to some wedding photos, although the bride did not seem to want to pose with us!).

We then all settled back into the mini-busses for the drive to Slough. After a refreshing swim, or drink or whatever, we had our own private room for dinner (where we were looked after by some nice young waiters) and having eaten, enjoyed a ceilidh until passed 11pm.

SUNDAY 29th MAY

On a nice sunny morning, a short drive through Windsor Great Park took us to the Savill Garden, Windsor Great Park, where we danced outside the Visitor Centre. The 35 acre Savill Garden on the edge of Windsor Great Park was created for King George V by his head gardener, Sir Eric Savill. It being a warm, sunny Bank Holiday Sunday crowds passed by and stopped to watch on their way into the Gardens. After time spent wandering the gardens ourselves, we did another dance session before sitting on the terrace for some lunch. At our second dance spot we were watched by members of Taeppa’s Tump, who are a good ladies clog side. They complemented us on our dancing while noticing that we had some new members (the lack of clogs was the give-away, not the lack of ability to dance).

Following lunch, another short ride took us to the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds. Situated on the River Thames, the Pleasure Grounds are close to various Memorials, including that to the Magna Carta, and the RAF Memorial. Here at a rather wind-blown dance spot the dancing was again watched by members of Taeppa’s Tump. They suggested that we might have a combined day of dance somewhere between our two bases; they suggested Maidenhead, perhaps indicating a slight lack of knowledge as to where Norfolk is. Our afternoon at Runnymede was rounded off by a cup of tea and laze by the Thames or a river trip with the dancers and musicians of Fiddlesticks emulating “Three Men in a Boat”.

An informal drinks reception(in room?) preceeded our departure for the village of Forty Green in the Chiltern Hills where we had dinner at the Royal Standard of England reputed to be the oldest freehouse in England.

MONDAY 30th MAY

Before we left the Copthorne Hotel, Slough, Windsor we danced in the foyer for the staff and residents, our clogs making a wonderful noise on the marble-type flooring. We then set off for St Albans. Having parked the buses at the edge of Verulanium Park we walked through the park and passed the lake, Lindsay managing to push George all the way to our next dancing spot at Ye Old Fighting Cocks Inn. Situated in Verulanium Park, close to the Cathedral this is possibly the oldest pub in Britain(another one!). Our dancing in the dappled sun beside a little stream outside the pub soon drew quite a crowd. After this session we completed our walk up the hill to dance Outside the Great West Door, St Albans Cathedral. The burial place of the first English martyr, St Alban, parts of the Norman foundation of the Abbey are still visible. The town also has many attractive buildings. Our dancing on a lovely paved area outside the West Door soon drew a crowd, as people sat around on the grass watching us while eating their ice-creams.

Having danced two sessions at this location, it was time for lunch and in the afternoon we set off for home. Our final stop was at Elveden, where we all enjoyed tea and cake together, before the two buses went their separate ways delivering everyone to their homes.

The end of another very enjoyable Tour.

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