Autumn Delights

“The mellow autumn came, and with it came the promised party.” – Lord Byron, probably one thing you could trust him on was to spot an opportunity for a good time. And surely autumn is the best of times. Glowing leaves, crisp skies, bright berries urging us to get out there and snatch the last golden days before the winter dark. New England may have ‘leaf-peeping’ hotlines, but the beech-woods of Bucks have their own enchantments. Even when it rains.

I love autumn….   So was delighted to be asked to pick some places to enjoy autumn in Bucks (even if it rains) for Buckinghamshire Life magazine.

Here’s a PDF of the full article – Bucks Autumn or it’s on Buckinghamshire Life’s website

And here’re links to the places I wrote about –

Waddesdon

For fairy-tale grandeur and innovative art installations

Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor
Bruce Munro art installations for the 'Winter Light' trail through the grounds
Bruce Munro art installations for the ‘Winter Light’ trail through the grounds

Waddesdon website

Chiltern Open Air Museum

For being open at night-time on Halloween, harvest traditions and stories by the fire in the roundhouse

Halloween
Halloween

Chiltern Open Air Museum website

Hughenden Manor

For all things apple and for being a secret WWII map-making base, codename ‘Operation Hillside’

Apple Day - 57 varieties grown at Hughenden
Apple Day – 57 varieties grown at Hughenden
tree sculpture
One of Ed Elliott’s ‘Watchmen’ sculptures commemorating the top-secret WWII map-makers

Hughenden Manor

Stowe

For neoclassical elegance and for having a ‘Lust and Illicit Love’ path and a pumpkin hunting trail through the grounds

Autumn Colours at Stowe The Palladian Bridge at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire Chatham Island

Stowe

Wendover Woods

For the Rothschilds creating a trackway through the woods for their zebra & cart, but mainly for the Gruffalo….

lord-rothschild-zebra-carriage-490_107554_1

My niece making friends with the Gruffalo at Wendover Woods
My niece making friends with the Gruffalo at Wendover Woods

Wendover Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The secret of freedom is a brave heart’ – WWI pacifist ambulance unit

I’ve always loved the Quaker Meeting House in Jordans village.  Sure, it’s a beautiful seventeenth century building, all herring-bone brick floor and diamond-latticed windows, old wooden tables with vases of wild-flowers and so forth, but more than that, it has an air of tranquility – maybe that’s what you get from centuries of people meeting somewhere to sit together quietly. Or maybe it’s just in a nice setting.  Either way.

Out of this tranquility came passionate pacifists, brave enough during the First World War to stand by their beliefs, yet go to the front-line anyway as the ‘Friends Ambulance Unit’ – praised by the Red Cross as “one of the brightest chapters in our history”.

For the centenary of the First World War, I wrote an article a little while back commemorating the Friends Ambulance Unit, ‘Friends in Deed’, for Buckinghamshire and Berkshire Life magazine, which is just out now to coincide with an exhibition at Jordans Meeting House.

Friends Ambulance Unit

Here’s a link to the full article.

On 21st August 1914, barely 2 weeks after the First World War began, Philip Noel Baker put out a call to fellow pacifist Quakers for volunteers to “form an Ambulance Corps to go to the scene of active operations.”  Adding, “It is possible that it would in various ways involve some personal risk to members of the Corps. But it would probably result in the saving of a great many lives.”

Philip Noel Baker is the only person ever to be awarded both the Nobel Peace prize and an Olympic medal – silver in the 1500m in 1920.  His Nobel Peace prize citation begins, “Frequently when the storm clouds gather the world is made aware of the forces of good, rallying to meet the threatened danger.”

He set up a training camp at Jordans for the ambulance volunteers – “A rather motley band of lawyers, doctors, students, engineers, surveyors, accountants, businessmen and workers in arts and crafts”. 

Volunteers camping in the orchard at Jordans training camp
Volunteers camping in the orchard at Jordans training camp © Religious Society of Friends in Britain, 2014

Over a thousand men, and some women, worked in the Friends Ambulance Unit during the First World War.  Twenty-one were killed. Ninety-six, nearly one in ten, were awarded medals for bravery.  Their achievements were one of the reasons the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  In accordance with the Friends Ambulance Unit motto – ‘Go anywhere, do anything’, they established and staffed hospitals, founded orphanages, set up and ran recreation rooms at Dunkirk – The Pig and Whistle and the Cat and Fiddle, to boost troops’ morale, provided civilian relief, including 27,000 typhoid inoculations when an epidemic threatened near Ypres, worked on hospital ships and by the end of the war had transported over half a million patients across France on ambulance trains.

The work of the Friends Ambulance Unit prompted one historian to recall the Ancient Greek advice – “The secret of happiness is service and freedom, and the secret of freedom a brave heart.”

As part of my research I had the great pleasure of meeting local Quakers Sue and John Smithson, who both had relatives who served in the Friends Ambulance Unit.

Sue and John Smithson at Jordans Meeting House
Sue and John Smithson at Jordans Meeting House

John’s father Michael drove an ambulance on the front-line, aged only seventeen.  At the end of the war he came to work at Jordans where the Quakers had established a convalescent home.  He’s pictured here at Jordans in 1918, seated fifth from left:

Friends Ambulance Unit volunteers at Jordans
Friends Ambulance Unit volunteers at Jordans © Religious Society of Friends in Britain, 2014

Sue’s Uncle, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor of The Washington Post, Felix Morley also volunteered for the Friends Ambulance Unit.  When Sue became engaged to John, Felix recognised John’s surname and realised he had worked alongside his father Michael on an ambulance train in France during the war.

memorial to the Friends Ambulance Unit was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in 2013.   The Society of Friends, as Quakers are more properly known, have more information about the Friends Ambulance Unit and kindly permitted use of some of their library photos in the article.

And huge thanks to Sue and John Smithson for chatting to me about their inspirational relatives.

With Sue Smithson at Jordans Meeting House

Archive photos © Religious Society of Friends in Britain, 2014