Cruising in to Christmas with Carvery Dinner: Choice of dates Monday 30th November or Sunday 13th December. The Christmas Cruise is great fun. While many of you will have been on the river during the day it is a truly different experience after dark. We start our tour at Historic Greenwich with time to visit the shops, museum and market before boarding our Thames cruiser. Inside the river cruiser it’s warm and cosy with everyone guaranteed a choice of seats with terrific views in one of two saloons and the prospect of a hot chocolate or a Whisky Mac from the fully licensed bar. There’s plenty of room to move around and a huge open deck. Your folk will really enjoy the quality and content of the commentary, a mix of historical information and Cockney Waterman’s humour that brings groups back year after year. We set off at 4-00pm from historic Greenwich and are soon passing The London Docklands a breath taking sight at night, a blaze of colour and light, our own mini Manhattan. It is a wonderful thing to sail beneath a flood lit Tower Bridge, quite stunning! Now we are in the Upper Pool of the Port of London passing the Tower of London, HMS Belfast and approaching London Bridge. The City of London owes its very existence to this majestic river, you’ll see The Monument and St. Paul’s Cathedral and then on to Bankside with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the massive Tate Modern art gallery housed in the old power station. It just gets better and better as we approach the West End and the warm golden tones of the Palace of Westminster where on many evenings in the run up to Christmas you’ll see our hard working MPs “networking” in the Commons bar on the riverside. After 60 minutes cruising we step ashore on Westminster Pier. Our Blue Badge guide will be waiting for you on the pier to walk back to our coach just a few minutes away and begin an entertaining guided tour of the Christmas Lights & Sights in the West End and the City of London. Finishing with three course Carvery Dinner at the President Hotel. Coach will depart Stevenage at 12.00, price £60.00 per person.
Vintage Essex (Second trip): Wednesday 2nd September. In partnership with Lodge Coaches of High Easter, near Chelmsford, we bring you Vintage Essex, a very entertaining new day out for groups who like to see a lot without walking too far. We combine the best in Blue Badge guiding in picture postcard Essex villages with an afternoon at the Lodge HQ in the Essex Rodings including a ploughman’s lunch and rides out in their vintage fleet of 1940s and 1950s coaches. We begin in Thaxted, Queen of Essex for morning refreshments in an old coaching inn. Betjeman said Thaxted was about as good as it gets. We’ll visit the old wool church where English composer Gustav Holst played the organ and the vicar flew the Red Flag from the tower. Who’s for a few verses of Holst’s hymn Thaxted, better known as I Vow To Thee My Country? From the church we weave past black and white striped Tudor houses and jolly colour-washed homes from the mediaeval to the Georgian period to the beautifully wonky old Guildhall. From high in the coach we’ll take in the gently rolling landscapes of rural Essex and the chocolate box village of Finchingfield as we head south to the little known Essex Rodings. Eight villages full of old thatched cottages, timber-framed manor houses and farmhouses form the largest group in the country to share a common name.
A ploughman’s lunch is ready for us at the Lodge Garage in High Easter. We are surrounded by the vintage vehicle collection and old coaching ephemera collection of the Lodge Family who are approaching their centenary in the coaching business. It’s a lovely afternoon with time to enjoy the collection of old coaching and bus ephemera and rides out in immaculately restored 1940s and 1950s coaches that have starred in Rock & Chips and blockbuster series The Crown. We finish the day with a cup of tea, which is also included in the tour fee. We’ll be ready to head home at 4.45pm. Coach will depart Stevenage at 09.00. Price 59.00 per person.
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show: Sunday 13th September (new date). The Show is run by the Royal Horticultural Society at Hampton Court Palace in southwest London. The show features show gardens, floral marquees and pavilions, talks and demonstrations. Erected on the north and south sides of the Long Water in Hampton Court Park, it is the second major national show after the Chelsea Flower Show but has a different character, focusing more on environmental issues, growing your own food and vegetables and cookery, while also offering opportunities to buy gardening accessories, plants and flowers. Price £56.00 per person. Coach will depart Stevenage at 08.00
The New Forest Matinee Explorer: Wednesday 16th September (Revised date on offer). The New Forest Matinee Explorer begins at midday at a 15th century thatched forest pub. During the summer months ponies and donkeys gather in the shade of this lovely inn. Enjoy a 2-course lunch with coffee together before we slip into the forest following in the footsteps of Kings and Queens, commoners and gypsies, smugglers and lovers. Over the past millennium a wealth of myth and legend has wound itself around the forest trees like a clinging vine. Your expert guide will chart a course to the heart of this enchanting world. You’ll see the Rufus Stone commemorating the controversial death of flame haired William II and see picture postcard villages including one that had to go to court to decide if it was in the forest or not. We visit a picture postcard thatched village and a 13th century church guarded by an ancient yew where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, lies buried. We’ll take you through Lyndhurst the “Capital” of the Forest and to the deer enclosure and ornamental drive at Bolderwood where huge trees including California Redwoods line our route. For tea we stop in Beaulieu, “the Historic Heart of the New Forest”, dating back to the days of King John. The name means beautiful and it is. No other place in the forest can match Beaulieu for historic interest and here too you may see donkeys and ponies ambling along the pavements. There are two or three places selling tea to round off an enjoyable day out. We leave Beaulieu at 4.30pm to begin the drive home. Coach will depart Stevenage at 09.00. Price 49.00 per person.
View from the Shard and two course lunch: Sunday 20th September (Revised date on offer). The View from the Shard is situated at the top of The Shard, on floors 68, 69 and 72, and almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London. Prepare to embark on a multi-sensory journey to 244m (800ft) above of one of the greatest cities on earth. On arrival at Level 00, you will be drawn into the tapestry of London with glimpses of the city laid out before you. Travelling skyward in two high-speed ‘kaleidoscopic’ lifts, you’ll swiftly reach Level 68 – a cloudscape above the world. Then journey to Level 69 where the view is revealed and London opens out before you. Here, in the sky above London, you’ll experience an astonishing 360 degree, 64km (40 mile) view over the city and beyond where the past, present and future of London will be unfurled beneath you. Then its back to ground level and rejoin the coach for a short drive to Covent Garden for our two course meal at Bella Italia Price £52.00 per person. Coach will depart Stevenage at 08.30