The Grounds

Garden and Grounds

The grounds have long been kept as traditional as possible. This is of particular benefit for film crews as there is minimal work in preparing for period filmin. However some particular plants have seen better days, so the time has come to uproot and replace.

This has the potential to leave hedges with spaces until the new plants mature to the point where they can be clipped in line with the surrounding foliage. Of course species will be accurately matched wherever possible, so given time the replacements will be completely unoticeable.yew topiary in nurseryImage by Hedgeworx

In addition to hedging we felt some of the specimen trees need major cutting back and maintenance, and in a few specific cases replacing completely. There are suppliers who import enormous topiary and we aim to replace like for like. Therefore this should be completely unoticeable, other than while the works are in progress.

There are also some masonary works which will require maintenance over the next few years, however we think this should be delayed until as late as possible. The reson being that whilst it will ultimately improve the appearance of the gardens, in the short term it may require heavy machinery and excessive footfall on easily damaged areas, particularly lawns.

The plan is also to increase the wildlife areas. Whilst these are out of sight, there are a number of new plant species which can be introduced, these in turn will attrach a wide range of insects and beetles. It is hoped that the increase in insects will attract birds, bats, lizards and other wildlife, this will help the eco sysstem and it’s hoped ultimately assist in natural pest control withoutt the need for artificial spraying.

wild garden for nature

Everything is only at the initial staages at the moment and consultation will be taken before any changes are put into place.

seasonal wedding considerations

OK so lets start off by assuming that you’ve already decided on the date, church or registry office and reception venue for your wedding. That’s great, but there are a few seasonal considerations you may want to take into account:

Flowers

First and probably the most obvious is the flowers. Your choice of flowers can help set the scene for the church, reception and the day overall.  Now I’m not suggesting that just because you get married in March you walk down the aisle clutching a bunch of daffodils, however if you get married in church and the area where the photographs will be taken has daffodils you may want to consider incorporating them into the the flower theme for the day. After all you might look a bit odd stood surrounded by Daff’s and clutching onto a selection of roses or even worse, something tropical. That being said if you were to get married in a tropical setting the Daffodils would look equally out of place. Here are a few examples of seasonal flowers for each season but it’s best to take a look at a few examples of wedding flowers before you decide:

Spring:daffodil bunch of flowers

Carnations – although a classic they are very long lasting and always look appropriate
Forget me nots – short stemmed flowers with delicate blue blooms
Lisianthus – If you buy these out of season they can be rther pricey

Summer:

Dahlias – available in a range of vivid colours to complement your chosen colour scheme
Hydrangeas – particularly large flower heads
Phlox – is ideral for a country cottage feel

Autumn:

Canna Lillies – a striking flower although the available colours will vary during the season
Iris – a popular choice despite it’s relatively short season
Marigolds – looks just like a big coloured daisy

Winter:

Amarillys – a flower traditionally grown during the winter in the UK
Freesias – have a particularly strong scent
Peony – can be found growing right into November

Catering

If you are matching your big day with the seasons, you probably want to consider matching the wedding breakfast with the season too. Many caterers will be able to advise you on what great produce is available at the time of the wedding. This is also an environmental consideration too, because if you provide out of season products, they have probably travelled quite some distance to reach your plates. Plus you need to bear in mind that serving up salad in December or sprouts in spring may have your guests brussels sproutsdiscussing the food at your wedding for quite a while after the event, for all the wrong reasons!

Entertainment

You’re probably thinking that everything above makes perfect sense, or at least I hope you are, but what does the entertainment have to do with the seasons? Well, unlike with the flowers and catering, the band or DJ that you want for the evening entertainment is probably going to play pretty much the same thing regardless if you book them in spring, summer, autumn or winter.  But will they be available? Remember there are many more weddings and balls etc happening during the summer months and plenty of office parties in the run up to christmas, so just remember that during their busiest times all the best bands and DJ’s are probably booked up well in advance, so it’s best to get in there and book them as quickly as possible after setting the date.

Entertainment

Being in the immediate run up to Christmas I see a degree of the organisation involved in putting on a wide range of events, typically at this time of year it’s Christmas parties and Balls, however as the year progresses (or passes) this really is just the tip of the iceberg. The evening event management side of things is a bit of a standard formula, the venue, the band plus PA and lighting rig, there is internal decor to consider and of course, the all important bar and catering. But regardless if it’s a military ball, company Christmas party or a corporate event, the formula is essentially the same, the main decisions involved in making the event a success seem to revolve around which providers to use for the individual components which comprise the whole event.

The obvious solution to this, assuming you’ve put on previous events, is to simply use the same suppliers that you used before if they did a good job last time, particularly for the catering, as getting the food right can be quite a challenge when either the team has to use an unfamiliar kitchen or has to transport food to a location already prepared. It’s easy enough for a professional outfit to provide different menus, but what about the other services?  After all you don’t want the event to be the same as the last one, particularly if it’s for the same set of people, a common problem for company events such as conferences and christmas parties.

party bandBooking the band is another easy choice if you’ve had them before, as they will undoubtedly vary their set for you, and probably have done anyway if it’s another year along for the works Christmas party.

The key to getting both of these right is to watch your guests, are they enjoying the food? Are they dancing to the band? Make sure you ask people afterwards too, and emphasise that you really do value their opinion and won’t be offended if they say something negative. In fact, what you want are the negative comments, too much rock and roll, or too many sprouts on your plate, these are the kind of comments, which if they come up a few times, can very easily be rectified at the next event.

But what if you’ve never put an event on before?

Now, this depends very much what you want and how much money you have to spend. If thee budget is tight and it’s a birthday party, or even to a lesser degree a wedding, you can afford a few hiccups, provided they aren’t big ones. So ask around, go and see the band you want to book, ask the caterers for a tasting, visit the decor company and see exactly what they have available.

If however you are putting on a large corporate event, you probably have a larger budget, but also want to play it safe, if money allows, you could pass tthe whole event over to a professional event organiser, they will have plenty of experience co-coordinating events like yours (unless, of course, you are planning to hire Wembley arena or the O2!) and will have tried and tested suppliers, who will always (Oops sorry, SHOULD always) do a good job, because they want their regular repeat business.

The middle ground is to use agencies, you may have to pay a bit more as they will be taking a cut, however it gives you another layer of recourse should something go wrong.

Historical Buildings and Smoking

In 2007 the EU smoking ban was put in place, regardless if you agree with it or not, or have an opinion on why the UK follows the laws to the letter, while many other European countries ignore it is irrelevant, it is UK law and it seems incredibly likely that it will remain in place for the foreseeable future. How does it impact historical buildings though? Offices and shops are fairly straight forward as there are no major legal restrictions on what they are able to do to a no smoking signbuilding, short of requiring planning approval. For example they can screw a sign to a wall or door without concern they are breaking the law, but for historical buildings, such as those which are listed, the law both requires them to display signage regarding smoking, but also restricts where they can place signs, here are a few examples:

The law requires that any building open to the public clearly displays signage to inform people that they may not smoke, however, these signs do not have to be affixed to the building itself, they could therefore be displayed on a hanging sign which could be removed when the property is not open to the public, such as a stately home, or be beside the entrances on an A-frame or fixed prominent notice historical buildingsboard.

The sign itself must by law display the following message “No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premise” and be of a minimum of A5 size, a fairly significant size for a sign which is going to contrast with the general appearance of a historical building.

Please bear in mind that this does not constitute legal advice and we suggest that you consult a solicitor or your local council for clarification on the laws around the ban, there are numerous solicitors who can advise

 

Updating Historical Buildings

There are a rather a lot of restrictions involved in making improvements to historical buildings, these vary from the rather strict legislation which restricts what can and can’t be done to listed buildings, through to getting even what are initially considered to be minor updates through the planning procedure. Often relatively small details must be considered to retain the characteristic of the building, right down to matching the mortar, tiles and bricks, this is why used building materials hold their price so well.

Doors and Windows

Improving the doors and windows is a good example of this, as if a building is either listed or in a conservation sash window in need of repairarea there could be restrictions on what could be done. Usually if a structure is owned by an organisation such as the national trust, self imposed restrictions will exist anyway, so for example, if it already has traditional timber framed sash windows, these are likely to be repaired as opposed to replaced with aluminium, UPVC or even a different type of timber and style, although if the frames allow, uprated glass may be used, usually double glazed to offer better insulation properties.

Changing doors can also often be a difficult decision, as large country houses are ideal for larger glass doors, these can be the bifold, concertina or sliding style. However because of structural constraints they must usually be made to fit an existing opening and fit in with the traditional appearance of the building and surrounding windows. The range available is not as broad as with simple doors, however many companies do offer an ever widening range of styles these days which in the case of traditional wooden styles may be available in a range of wood stains to match the existing features.

Masonary

gargoyle in need of repairStonework is a very different case, as often on an older building it was probably hand crafted, although it could now be in a state of disrepair to the point that the specific feature is no longer recognisable. this level of deterioration can be down to a number of things, however, pollution and the stone being worked and consequentially laid in the wrong orientation is often the culprit. These types of repairs can prove to be very costly and are generally best avoided unless entirely necessary.

Until such time that improving the structural appearance is as easy as updating more minor items such as doors and windows these type of repairs will seldom be done in time to save the feature completely.

The Local Wildlife

Being and older building surrounded by countryside the house is not just surrounded by nature but is a refuge for wildlife too, with the river running close by, a reservoir around a quarter of a mile away and a large area of woodland behind us, you are never far away from nature.

The local deer population seems to have grown over the last couple of years, both red deer and Muntjacks are often seen muntjac deergrazing in the open fields. Also squirrels (albeit grey as opposed to our red ones) seem to have been increasing in numbers of late.

The roof of the building is said to have colonies of bats in there, this only came to light when construction work was due to begin and the surveyor found them roosting in the rafters, due to their protected status a portion of the work had to be delayed until they had finished bringing up their young. This was several years back, although I’m told that they will usually continue to roost in the same place if possible, so the chances are that they are still there now. Also the mix of water, woodland and open countryside means they could be almost any of our indigenous British species.

water volesWater voles and mink are both said to have been seen at the river and there is even a roumour that otters are present there, although I do find this highly unlikely and there has been no confirmed sighting from a reliable source. I would expect that if they were there a local conservation group would have undertaken a monitoring scheme to keep an eye on their progress. It’s quite likely that any sightings are just a mink, wrongly identified instead. You can buy loads of different monitoring type of equipment, so there’s no doubt that it would be quite easy to trap or photograph them.

This year I have seen a huge number of Bumble bees, I don’t know if their numbers are on the increase or if the weather has somehow worked in their favour, but I can’t remember ever having seen so many. Of course it could just be that their nest is close by somewhere.

The local beekeeper is also often around tending to his hives, although I’m told it’s been a bad year for honeybees as they built up early in the warm weather we had back in March, then have struggled to get out to feed due to the low temperatures and high volumes of rain we’ve had this spring and summer. He is not Bee Hivesexpecting a great honey crop this year, you can see updates about how he is getting on here www.honeybeehive.co.uk.

The raptors are another regular sighting around here, Buzzards, Red Kites and Kestrels are all regularly seen and seem to do well feeding on the mice and voles which are abundant in the hedgerows and fields. Speaking of which, there must be some kind of subsidy available to farmers this year to encourage them to leave fields to grow as wild meadow. I’ve seen several, which were previously arable but have now been left to grow wild, I expect they will be cutting them for hay at some point soon, but it still leaves a great opportunity for wildflowers to grow and provide nectar and pollen for both the wild insects and our local beekeepers wards.

Hiring a Marquee for Your Wedding

With the increasingly bizarre antics of the English weather, having a wet weather option at your wedding is fast becoming a must.  It provides you with shelter if necessary and a dry place to have some photos taken if the heavens have opened outside.  It also generally means that guests are free to grind wedding cake underfoot and gesticulate with a glass of red in hand without landing you with a massive cleaning bill afterwards.

Does Size Matter?

Even if you’re keeping your wedding to a select number, you will probably end up needing more space than you thought.  Whether this is for your massive wedding cake to have its own table, to allow waiters to move around or just to make sure kids can get out quickly when they ‘neeeeed a weeeee!’, you’ll quickly find your small wedding of 30 people needs rather a lot of space.

Full Control

Choosing a marquee instead of a venue room gives you a unique edge: you can choose exactly how it’s going to look.  Given that most standard marquees are white and relatively uncomplicated, you can have full control over how the flowers are arranged, where the tables are placed and even wrap pretty ribbons around any unsightly metal poles.

Help Where It’s Needed

If you use a professional marquee rental service, they will offer you plenty of help if you need it.  They can advise on the style and size of marquee that will fit your needs, the kind of decoration that will work with your marquee and theme and many other niggling details that you probably hadn’t even thought of.  For example, do you want full length windows or small, arched windows?  How many entrances/exits do you require?  Where is the best location for your marquee?  Do you need flooring?  Some companies will even visit your planned reception site and inspect it for appropriateness.

How Much will it Cost?

Well it will of course vary according to how much space you need and how many guests you have.  It will also hinge on your research and haggling skills.  With so many hire companies out there, you will probably be able to shop around and find the best deal just by using the internet, you could visit my local one, Richardson Marquees (I’d like to add I havent used them myself, so can’t comment on them, they are just the company which I know because I saw their vans a couple of times, so I found them on Google to get you started, I’m nice like that!).

A very general guide is that if you have 150 guests, to hire a marquee big enough you will probably need to spend somewhere in the region of £4,000.  This would include full construction, heating, lighting, flooring, doors, dismantling and linings.  However, you’ll find a much lower price if you’re willing to forgo some of those touches.

If you go for a full-service rental agency, you can build your dream venue pretty much from the ground up, picking lighting themes, colours, furnishings and props that fit in with the rest of your day.  This service won’t be cheap but it will take a lot of the stress away.

It’s also worth remembering that hiring a marquee can be a lot more affordable than going for a larger venue such as a hotel.  If you have a large garden at your disposal, it’s the best choice in terms of budgeting. Just remember not to blow the budget, you still need the wedding photography, band, caterers, as everyone will need something to soak up all that drink with, the band plus all the little extras which people forget to include in the initial budget.

Bands and Functions

Certainly one of the most imposing buildings in Buckinghamshire, Halton House will have been host to a wide range of grand events such as weddings, balls and state occasions during the last hundred and thirty years or so.

I can imagine any bride being more than happy with approaching the venue down it’s impressive avenue to the front of the building, lined with mature trees. Although these days being the officers mess I don’t believe it’s available for private hire any more, I suppose the only solution would be to marry an RAF officer.

The building has a somewhat unusual though somewhat unusual appearance, this is due to it only actually being just over a hundred years old, however it was designed to look older rather than following modern architecture techniques for its time.

The grand hall is an impressive feature; and again, any bride would have been delighted to hold their wedding reception in it. With side rooms and undoubtedly well fitted and kitted kitchen and space to party all night all that would be needed are a good wedding band to play, and the reception would almost be a guaranteed success. If you are looking for a professional band, I would suggest taking a look at Pop of Ages, I’ve seen them play a couple of weddings over the last few years and are very good.

If rooms were also available (I don’t know exactly how many there are, but I would imagine the 3 story building originally had at least 20 bedrooms) the couple could go upstairs to change for the evening and then come down the staircase to the main hall for their first dance.

All in all I don’t think anyone would be disappointed by this venue regardless of the event.  The RAF still have events there which are undoubtedly well attended, I would imagine they are balls for big occasions where everyone is dressed up with top quality catering and wine laid on with a professional party band playing, so they can all dance the night away.