On our way back from Bristol today we visited Cliveden, former home of Nancy and Waldorf Astor. We walked around the formal gardens with their superbly maintained and colourful displays of flowers; we wandered through natural woodland and found our way down to the River Thames which runs along the boundary of the estate. (Naturally, we also dropped in to the Orangery for a cream tea: after all, this is now National Trust property, and NT cafes are always worth a visit.)
Down by the river we found the wonderfully restored boathouse, which is now being used as a workshop to restore a battery powered canoe, the Liddesdale, built for Lord Astor in the early part of the 20th Century and used for cruising along this stretch of the river. The boat had fallen into a state of serious disrepair, but the National Trust has raised the funds to restore it to its former glory. It is possible to go and watch the work in progress, and the team of restorers, using the traditional boat building methods used to construct the canoe originally, are happy to chat and discuss the progress of their work. They hope to complete the restoration later this year so that visitors to Cliveden can enjoy boat trips along the "Cliveden Reach". There is further information on the NT web site.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the election of Nancy Astor as the first woman Member of Parliament. There was a special exhibition in the Blenheim Pavilion of some of the many congratulatory letters she received at the time.