A Bookish Adventure

I started this blog to document an extended trip to the US and UK in 2012, introducing children to my Alice-Miranda series. It's hard to believe that it's just on four years since we launched the first Alice-Miranda title - and now there are nine books out in Australia with another five still to come. When I first came up with the idea of this precocious seven and a quarter year old, I had no clue that she would take me on such an amazing journey, not only in Australia but also across the world. I visited 37 schools while we were away in 2012 and gave over 80 talks - it was fantastic. In 2013 I've been on lots of new adventures in the UK - visiting schools from London to Southampton, Lancashire, Scotland, Newcastle and back to London again. After that I headed off to meet readers in Singapore. In Australia I've been to Melbourne, Perth, Albany, Alice Springs and Brisbane. There's a new series too - about a gorgeous little girl called Clementine Rose. She and Alice-Miranda don't know each other yet, but they will soon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Leaden Hall School for Girls and Salisbury

Sunday morning saw us drive south west to Salisbury.  Ian and I had visited the area on my first trip to England in 2006, but that was more a happy accident than good planning.  On that occasion we had come up against some serious motorway delays enroute to Bath, so had taken the off ramp and ended up in Salisbury on dusk.  It was glorious and I will never forget entering the cathedral just as evensong began.

This time we were heading there to visit Leaden Hall School for Girls which is located in the Cathedral Close.  We arrived in town around 2pm, having spent the morning wandering through Richmond.  We went straight to the cathedral close and spent a couple of hours there.  The cathedral itself is now 754 years old – it’s hard to fathom really.
There was a spirited game of cricket going on on the common and during our wander we bumped into a group of Leaden Hall boarders on their way back from a weekend outing.  Some of them were so little.

Our accommodation that evening was at a lovely B&B/hotel called Cricket Fields, aptly named as it sits on the edge of the local cricket pitch where a very lively game was in full flight.
We settled in then went for a drive to find something for dinner.  Our hosts recommended a pub called the Victoria and Albert in a nearby village.  We found our way to Netherhampton and the pub, but it was closed for another half hour so we drove into the town and had a walk around.  Salisbury has every convenience and is much bigger than I had remembered it.

The pub was great – low ceilings, an ancient bar and a great big yard out the back with tables dotted around.  We had bangers and mash (how can you go past it in an English pub?), which was delicious.
On Friday morning we were up early to head over to the school.  Idyllic, picture postcard, gorgeous – are all words that spring to mind about Leaden Hall.  It’s setting in the Cathedral Close must be about one of the most picturesque places you could imagine.  We later learned from one of the teachers that John Constable used to stay at Leaden Hall and paint scenes of the garden.  He also painted the Hall from across the river.

We were warmly greeted by the head, Julia Eager, with whom I had been corresponding about the visit.  The day started with assembly and I met all the girls.  Then we continued with five sessions covering all of the girls from Nursery to Year 6.  They were wonderful to work with and the little ones were absolutely precious.  Leaden Hall’s boarders are mostly children whose parents are in the military.  The youngest girls are eight years old – Alice-Miranda would definitely fit in well here!
In recent years the school has added a whole wing of new buildings and a large hall.  Apparently the planning permissions are very strict in Salisbury due to its heritage listings and there were numerous attempts before the designs were accepted.  They nestle into the block beautifully.  There is also a fast flowing river at the bottom of the garden and adjacent fields with horses and cattle – as I said, idyllic.

The school garden is very pretty, with a walled rose garden and an ancient sun dial.
We ate lunch with the girls and staff in the dining room, which is a huge conservatory off the main building.  The food was great – English boarding schools seem to set the standard for excellent meals.

After lunch we spent an hour with the nursery students.  I read some of my new series, Clementine Rose to them – it seemed to go over very well and they were all in love with Lavender, Clementine’s tea cup piggy.
My last session was with Year 3 and 4.  The girls were great as all of the groups were.

I was very glad to visit Leaden Hall as a number of years ago the previous Head, Diana Watkins had visited us at Abbotsleigh.   Our Head of Junior School, Sally Ruston had in turn gone to spend a day at Leaden Hall and raved about what a beautiful school it was.  I can only agree!
PS Had a lovely email from one of the girls and her mother after the visit – it seems Jess talked about nothing but Alice-Miranda from the minute she hopped into the car J

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