On 13th October, thirty-five Friends – all intrepid explorers, gathered at the iconic bus and coach stop pick-up bay outside Market Harborough Market Hall at 8.45am, for onward departure at 9.00am.

Although overcast cloud prevailed, there was an air of excitement as this was the first arranged visit for eighteen months due to COVID 19 restrictions.

Under the careful driving of Gary (not Garry Davies our Treasurer) we made good time down the A14, then through the outskirts of Rugby, finally joining the old Roman road, the Fosse Way through to Moreton-in-the Marsh. A short ride from there and we were being warmly welcomed by Helen, one of the staff members from the Batsford Arboretum, and given a short helpful and informative talk on the background to its history.

Alighting the coach, we were given a site map and treasurer Garry gave us all a badge, which was crucial for re-entry when we ventured outside.

Then armed with our maps of the site and ready to explore, we were subjected to a short heavy rain shower, which did not dampen enthusiasm or spoil the mood, and fortunately it cleared so that by early afternoon the sun broke through and from the Viewpoint on the estate, the Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire Cotswolds were visible as was Moreton itself. The main part of the day’s visit was a time of ‘free association’ – to coin a phrase from Porridge. People did their own thing and from time-to-time en-route (our) paths crossed.

The helpful literature with an enclosed site map suggested various routes of varying degrees of walking or buggy challenge, and allowed access or viewing of at least twenty-six suggested features including the Foo dogs, Buddha, Giant Redwoods, Cathedral Lime, Hermits Cave, Waterfall, Viewpoint and many other spectacular features.

The café provided afternoon tea for us, which was welcome refreshment and nourishment after the arduous strolling and viewing. Some members visited the garden centre and gift shop to make purchases, and by 4.00pm we were well on our way home, arriving in Harborough in the early evening. I can’t speak for all, but I hope everyone enjoyed the day – I certainly did, and I felt all were happy in a step back to something like pre-COVID times.

The idea for this outside visit, the usual practice having been to visit a Cathedral or Abbey Churches, came from the Friends long-time supporter and committee member George Marshall. If there was a degree of irony in his and Christina’s inability to participate due to his poor health, I imagine we were all stunned and devastated to learn that he had died in the early hours of the morning immediately after our trip – the one he was pivotal in promoting.

Thanks to our Chairman John, and Garry, John’s ‘right-hand man’ and ‘minder’ for the outing, for organizing the whole day, and Ausden Clark for transport. Well done – ‘a reet good job’ all round!

Les Dodd