It's not often we get to follow in the footsteps of Time Team but that's what happened to a group of us at Colne Priory this year. When Paul and Gill, BN members in Essex, invited forum members to visit their home near Colchester I didn't really know what to expect. We turned up on one of the many blissfully hot weekends that we had this August. Turning into the grounds we realised that we were next to a rather magnificent 18thcentury manor house with really interesting features.
About twenty of us attended and were made welcome by Paul and Gill. We were given a guided tour of the grounds including an area marked out on a large field with permanent chalk lines. Paul explained that these lines marked the original buildings that made up the Benedictine Colne Priory. The BBC Time Team had been there and uncovered much of the old ruins. The Priory had been built by the De Vere family in or before 1111. Aubrey De Vere wanted to have the monks close to them in the priory and for it to be a family mausoleum. Later it became the principal burial place for the Earls of Oxford.
Paul knows the history of the Priory inside out and he gave us a really interesting tour. The grounds include woodland, parkland and carp lakes.
Right outside the main house is a swimming pool, spa and numerous sun loungers. The pool was of the infinity style, apparently merging into the lawns and lake beyond. It was great chatting to old friends and new in such a great setting. Some of our members had travelled quite a distance. After our picnic and barbecue lunch we were free to wander the grounds. The photographers among us had a great time as there were so many wonderful pictures to take. The view of the house over the lake and the giant redwood tree being just two. After playing with the croquet set on the lawn most of us took the opportunity to have a go at punting on the lake. Amazingly nobody fell in. Patti, not trusting me in a punt, insisted we use the rowing boat instead. Taking one oar each we rowed around the lake in small circles.... Steve Redgrave eat your heart out, you'd never do such perfect circles as us.
Looking around you could not help but think what a wonderful place this would be for a permanent naturist resort, especially if we could guarantee the same weather.
It was a perfect venue for a day visit and I was so pleased that Paul had judged the day a success. He was treating it as a bit of an experiment and now is looking to do something similar in future. The guests all contributed to Paul and Gill's chosen charity, the RNLI.