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Facts

BERKSHIRE

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FUN FACTS

Berkshire is the 40th largest county or metropolitan borough in England.
Berkshire has the 24th highest population in England.
Berkshire is in 12th place for density of population.

  1. The Royal Connection
  2. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and luckily it is in Windsor which is in Berkshire. The castle was founded by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century and if I was to tell you which Kings and Queens have used it as a residence it would almost be like going through the list of monarchs.

    However William never lived there. Henry I, II and III all lived there and Edward III made it the base for his new Order of the Garter. In fact the garter ceremony still takes place through the streets of Windsor every June.

    Queen Victoria made Windsor the main palace of the British monarchy. Both Edward VII and his son George V used and made changes to the castle. When George VI, the present Queen's father, came to the throne in 1936 he and his wife and their two daughters were already living at the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park. While the King and Queen stayed in London at Buckingham Palce during WWII both Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were brought up at Windsor.

    Since the Covid pandemic, the Queen has spent most of her time at Windsor and it is said that, following the death of Prince Philip, She will not return to live at Buckingham Palace but make Windsor Castle her home.

  3. Berkshire Eats
  4. Eton College and Harrow School always, well since the 1800s, had an annual cricket match, usually held at Lord's Cricket Ground. Traditionally, at the match, a dish of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream was served to the boys. The dish became known as Eton Mess and has become a great favourite around England. No one is really sure where the "mess" bit came from but, when served, it does look a bit messy.

    However another possibility is that the "mess" is where soldiers gather to eat their meals so the idea that this word could be used for where English public school boys eat is a possibility. Personally, at my school, we ate in the refectory which apparently comes from the Latin word, reficere, which means to restore or remake. A good lunch time meal always restored me and I was ready for a full afternoon of lessons. Food and Latin, what more do you want.

    Whilst strawberries are the traditional fruit, you could use any refreshing summer fruit. You can now buy ready-made Eton Mess but, to be honest, why would you. Pick some strawberries, make some meringues and add some cream. It doesn't matter if the meringues are a failure because you are going to break them into pieces. This is my sort of meal preparation

    By the way, or to my younger readers, BTW, I had to choose between Eton Mess and Windsor Soup for this section. Made the decision in less than a second.

  5. Berkshire VIPs
  6. Seven random people who were born in Berkshire in the last 100 years:-
    Posy Simmonds (Cartoonist/Writer/Illustrator), Will Young (Singer/Songwriter), Hannah White (Sailor/Broadcaster), Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge (Member of the Royal Family), Ricky Gervais (Writer/Comedian/Actor), Max and Harvey Mills (Singers).

  7. Now That's Weird
  8. Ah, the great building projects of our world; the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye, the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. All had one thing in common and that was the involvement of Arup Associates, a British multinational professional services firm headquartered in London which provides engineering, architecture, design, planning, project management and consulting services for all aspects of the built environment. The firm employs in excess of 16,000 staff and has a presence in over 30 countries.

    You might, therefore, find it a little weird that such an international firm, established in 1946, would also have designed the Point Royal flats in Easthampstead, once a village but now a suburb of Bracknell in Berkshire. But they did. The eighteen storey block was built between two trees. No, sorry, was built between 1961 and 1964 and each floor has 6 flats making a total of 102 one or two bedroomed flats. But wait I hear you say, 18 times 6 is 108 and I would agree. The answer is that the ground floor has no flats and is merely an entrance lobby.

    In 1998 it was designated a grade 11 listed building as an example of Sixties architecture. Historic England says that the block is notable for its bold sculptural form and integrated design and also for the precise and refined quality of the pre-cast external frame and I thank them for that comment. Originally the building was known as the "threepenny bit flats" because their shape, a hexagon (having six sides) was the same shape as the old threepenny bit coin. You're all too young to remember those but I'm not.

  9. It Happened Here
  10. Have you ever thought about all those TV programmes or films, set in a castle or a stately home. Where do they film them? Do they build a special set or do they use an existing house or castle? There are people who actually earn a living from travelling around the world looking for locations to fit in with filming needs. When I was in Tonga about 15 years ago I met two film producers who said that my constant travelling made me an ideal person to do such a job. I had to point out that my travelling was actually my job.

    Anyhow I told you all that because Highclere Castle in Berkshire has been the star of a very popular TV series. The castle has been around since 1842 and was a house before that. In WWI it was a hospital for wounded soldiers and in WWII was the home to many children evacuated from London.

    Between 2010 and 2015 Highclere Castle became Downton Abbey and presumably again a few years later when the film was made. The public can now, in normal times, visit the castle and see the rooms where so many scenes were filmed. The castle has over 250 rooms and downstairs, where the servants used to live, there is an exhibition celebrating the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and his discovery of the tomb of the Egyptian boy king, Tutankhamun. Well worth a visit and I can vouch for the lovely walk through the gardens too as I have actually been to the castle and grounds.

  11. Richard Remembers
  12. Berkshire has no coast so, like others, there are no memories from any of my three coastal journeys. However I had an aunt, who died back in 2016 aged 97, who lived in Slough and that is now in Berkshire so I have some memories from visits to her. I say "now" because I think I am correct in saying that at one time Slough was actually in Buckinghamshire. My aunt lived in her house for over 55 years and so there were many visits.

    A big treat on some occasions was to be taken to Windsor to look at the castle but I've already given you that treat. I was also told by said aunt that the traffic light system in Slough was set in such a way that, if you drove at 28mph, they would always be green. The more I think about this I find it hard to believe but maybe it is.

    The other memory I have of Berkshire is the name of the little village of Aldermaston which, in the 1960s, was the scene of many protests. The reason was that the Atomic Weapons Establishment which develops, maintains and disposes of the UK's nuclear weapons, was, and is, situated there. As you will know from other parts of this site I occasionally give you my opinion on something and, when I do, I tell you it is just that. It is not a fact just a view that I hold. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and so if you disagree with me, that's fine. You could even try to convince me I am wrong and I would always listen.

    I think, had I been older, I would have joined those protests. You see my thoughts are this. We are told we need nuclear weapons as a deterrent. That's fine if it works. If it doesn't deter any enemy then your nuclear weapons are useless; the other has used them and not many of us may be left. If you don't have them as a deterrent then there is no need for another power to use them against you. So, we spend an awful lot of money on making something that, if it is successful, will never be used and if it isn't is too late to be of any use. Think about that and form your own opinion.

  13. Owlbut's Birdwatch
  14. The house martin is a small bird. It has a glossy blue-black back and white underneath. It has white legs which, unusually for birds, are covered in white feathers. It has a forked tail and a short, thin, black beak. House martins eat insects and also spend much of their time collecting their prey.

    They spend the summer in England and their winters in Africa. They are on the Amber List as recently there has been a decline in their numbers. There are about half a million house martins which currently nest in England. They build a mud nest and it can often be found under the eaves of buildings. They usually return to England in March/April and leave again in September/October. They can be seen in towns and the countryside, often near woodland or water.

    House martins are 12 cms in length, have a wingspan of about 27 cms and weigh between 15 and 23 grams.

We have asked the local Tourist Board(s) for a small contribution (50 pounds) to the cost of running this project and, in anticipation of their agreement, we are providing a link to their site(s) for the next five years. I can assure you we won't see anywhere near everything when we are there, so, if you fancy taking a trip into Berkshire check it (them) out for some great information. Apart from anything else it will get you out in the fresh air, walking around and one day you might be over 70 and still enthusiastically mobile.

All figures the latest available as at July 2020