Early on Saturday morning, laden with packed lunches, and with the air-conditioning on at full blast to combat the 32° heat, the ORA party set out from Clare College, bound for Woburn Abbey. The coach was brand new and rather luxurious, and with a driver who took it upon himself to act as a tour guide, the journey was passed very pleasantly.
Woburn Abbey itself is a beautiful stately home in a grand, enormous style. Built in 1145 to be the home of a community of Cistercian monks, it became the seat of the Duke of Bedford in 1547. Its beauty and splendour was recognised by the visiting John Adams, later to be President of America, who mentioned it very favourably in his diary. In addition to its own architectural impressiveness, the Abbey is also host to an impressive collection of paintings. With works by Poussin, Rembrandt, Holbein and many more, in the Woburn Abbey galleries hangs one of the finest private collections in the world. Students enjoyed being given a tour of the Abbey— and in particular, they enjoyed completing the ORA quiz as they went round, which required them to read the information on the walls and ask the staff questions about numerous smaller details.
While one half of the group were exploring the Abbey, the other (with the parties swapping over at lunch) had the chance to enter the Woburn Safari Park, also on the Abbey’s grounds. The coach drove at a sedate pace through the enormous enclosures: inside them, often not very far at all from the glass up against which the students pressed themselves, were tiger cubs, wolf packs, bears, lionesses, and more. It is, the guide told us, the largest enclosure of carnivores in Europe. The bus tour ended with what proved to be most of the students’ favourite –the giraffes— before everybody disembarked to enter a smaller foot enclosure containing lemurs monkeys and penguins, or to try out their talents on the peddle-boats.
The coach returned to Clare College in time for a late supper, filled with students tired but very happy.