A friend asked me a week or so ago if I had a day free in my very busy social diary to accompany him on a day trip to look around Stamford. We arranged the only day I had free for a couple of weeks, Wednesday 13th June 2012. How was I to know that the day would turn out to coincide with the Queen’s journey from Burghley House where she was lunching, through to Corby where she was visiting the new “Cube” Theatre and Leisure complex? This is a glass cube building on the site where I used to swim in a former life. However, I discovered this fact the day before when another friend and I were driving past Corby. I just had to drive in to see it in the centre of the dreaded Corby (Northamptonshire’s blot on the landscape, in my opinion). It was then that my friend told me that the Queen was coming to Corby the next day after Burghley House, and I might be lucky enough to see her car on the route to Stamford.
However, I had no idea that it would be such a big event in Stamford. I took a couple of flags to wave out of the car window if we happened to spot her car on route, but all we saw was a layby with several police bikes we presumed were preparing to close the roads when she was due to pass.
As we approached Stamford we ran into the tail end of a long traffic jam, so took a detour and found a quieter route in, parked up at the roadside just before 11am and walked into the town from there. Of course, I left the flags in the car, thinking I would look a bit daft walking around the town holding a couple of flags. But pretty soon I was wishing I had brought them with me. As we approached the town centre we were aware of a heavy police presence, so one of my friends went and asked them what was happening, under the pretext of asking where the museum was. He was told that the Queen was lunching at Burghley House and was expected to leave there at about 2.30pm after a flypast from the Red Arrows, and told him where would be the best vantage point.
The town was gradually filling up with people as we walked around admiring the architecture. We spent some time in the library genning up on the history of the town, and admiring various artefacts and the tapestry depicting the history of the town. The model of England’s fattest ever man, Daniel Lambert, wasn’t in the museum I had visited before as the museum was now closed and the artefacts had been split between the library and the town hall. After visiting the library, we grabbed a healthly baguette from Subway which we sat eating on a bench in the town centre, watching the world go by. There was plenty of time for us to do a circuit of the town, walk over the bridge and through the park to see the ducks and swans near the remains of the castle, before returning to the town to get a good position for seeing the Queen’s cavalcade. The atmosphere was electric nearer to the centre, but at 13.16pm we had picked a quieter spot where we could get a good view of the right side of the car, where I was convinced the Queen would be sitting.
At 13.19pm a large group of cadets from all forces paraded by us towards the centre, and there was a town crier wandering around amongst the crowd. Then along came a street sweeping machine followed by a rubbish pickup truck, (not that the streets were dirty before, but they had to get rid of every speck of dirt I suppose). The crowd was getting thicker, and waving flags for all they were worth, but no sign of the Queen’s cavalcade yet.
There we waited for an hour or so until we saw the Red Arrows overhead. They were too quick for any of us to photograph, but we knew that the Queen wouldn’t be long after that. The itinerary for the Red Arrows was to leave Scampton at 14.00pm, fly over Stamford 14.22pm, recover Scampton 14.47pm. They must have been on time.
It seemed like ages after that before the Queen’s cavalcade was spotted at 14.41pm. Firstly came two police motorcycles to clear the way, I suppose, although the police that were standing around had already done that very effectively. A couple of minutes later at 14.44.20. we could see them coming. Lights were flashing on the police motorbikes in front, and we could see the Queen’s car approaching slowly. Snapping away as fast as my phonecam would let me, I managed to get the Queen’s car as it was getting quite near, but I was too awestruck to take a photo of her face as she smiled at me, when she was only a few feet away from me at 14.44.50. Her window was open and she looked absolutely stunning in mint blue/green. Amazing!
After the cavalcade had passed by, the crowds started to disperse, but there was still aerial activity from four planes giving us an aerial display overhead for ten minutes or so. These were not the Red Arrows, but maybe the group from Sywell Aerodrome that often display around the surrounding area on a Wednesday afternoon.
My phonecam was frustrating me all day, as I couldn’t get a decent light setting for my photos, but one of our group has a much better camera and he was taking photos too, so I hope he will send me some better ones. Because of the activities in the town today, we didn’t really spend enough time in the town, so we will arrange a quieter day for our return, but I was very impressed by what I had already seen of the town. I still can’t believe our luck in going on this particular day though, and I’ve been smiling about our experience ever since.
Video from the Stamford Mercury >>
Video of visit to Burghley House >>
The circuit we walked (including most of the streets within the circle):-