Outing to Basildon Park 26th September

  Our coach was only half full for what proved a most enjoyable outing, enhanced by warm, sunny weather. Frank, our driver, expertly drove through the narrow gateway to the car park, where we were greeted by a member of staff. Diane, a friend of Janet Cary, over from the US, 'loved the offer of a buggy ride up to the house, the charming setting, Emma's introductory talk wholeheartedly given and the friendly, informative house guides'. So much of interest in the house – a great favourite is the 1950s kitchen, where a volunteer had just baked ginger cake and little rock cakes using recipes of the period – tasty they were too. The shell room is another gem, packed full of wonderful shells of all shapes and sizes in cases and on the walls, collected by the late Lord Iliffe's mother. In the dining room the table was set for 'dinner at 8' and the lights dimmed. For our group many ate al fresco but others in the cafe – wonderful to be surrounded by exotic eastern scenes inspired by the ruined city of Angkor Wat, which Lord and Lady Iliffe visited in the 1950s, decorated by a nephew in 1999. Currently, the major earthworks in the grounds is for the installation of heat pumps, which will replace the oil heating in the house. How special that Lord and Lady Iliffe chose to save Basildon Park from almost certain demolition. They restored and refurnished it and in 1978 presented it to the National Trust, with its contents, surrounding parkland and an endowment.