Saturday morning got off to an early start, as students reported to the front quad ready to leave for Blenheim Palace by 8.30am. What bleary eyes there were at this time in the morning immediately brightened when they drew up to the Palace―they were struck by the size of the house, by its grandeur, and by all it promised for exploration in its vast grounds and behind its towering trees.
And there was truly an abundance of things to see. Even before entering the palace itself, students stopped to ponder the massive monument, the Column of Victory, which stands 134ft tall opposite the palace, to commemorate the position of the Duke of Malborough’s troops at the Battle of Blenheim. For it was for the Duke of Malborough that the palace was built, between 1705 and 1722, to reward him for his military triumphs against the French and Bavarians during the War of the Spanish Succession, which culminated in the Battle of Blenheim.
Entering the palace, students marvelled at its collection of fine artwork and imposing architecture. There were also many more opportunities to learn and enquire further about the history of the house and those who have lived in it. Discovering that the palace was in fact the birthplace of the iconic British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was especially exciting, as was the tour around the suite of rooms in which baby Winston was born and first cradled. The statue of Queen Anne in the palace’s impressive library also drew many fans.
After taking a short train journey across the grounds on the palace’s own service, students gazed upon the wonders of nature in the Butterfly House―there were big ones, little one, spotty ones and stripy ones! The size of the larger creatures did rather shock some students, but they became used to hearing the beat of their wings, and even having them settle on a finger or shoulder. There were ample prospects for further exploration in the gardens―once students discovered the maze, they were hooked, many of them going back again and again even after completing it. The record time, by a route honed on many practice-runs and by fierce competition, was seven minutes, which is not at all to be sniffed at.
Students also took advantage of the onsite cafe, and despite the British weather, persisted in buying ice creams! Perhaps a hot chocolate would have been the more appropriate choice, but they were very content to take their ice creams down to the lake and enjoy them amongst the lush green beauty of their surroundings.
Alas, the day had to come to an end. The buses came to convey the students back to Catz, and whilst the spirit was happy, the journey was a quiet one, as students rested their weary legs and eyes after a day full of walking amongst wonders and gazing upon treasures both natural and artistic. On arrival back in Catz, most students retired to their rooms, popping out briefly for dinner and then hitting the hay. A few hardy students enjoyed a film in the glass classroom before adjourning to their rooms as well.