It's not much more than an hour away, yet we hardly ever go to Royal Leamington Spa, as they like it to be known. I was there yesterday for a meeting about the Heritage Open Days, a national celebration of our heritage and culture - construed in the widest sense. 50 countries now take part, we were told. At the time, I mentioned that a sub-set of domestic properties calling itself Cheltenham Eco Homes took part in the HODs weekend for the first time last September: we were encouraged by the public response to repeat the process, and are now calling ourselves Cheltenham ECOHAB - standing for something like energy conservation opportunities - houses and (other) buildings. A colleague and I thought we should tap into what's going on during the HODs in other places - hence the trek over to Warwickshire. The "organiser forum", led by a couple of lively young London ladies, was well attended, and included a tour of the Pump Rooms and the integral Art Gallery & Museum.
Leamington has got it together in a way which puts Cheltenham to shame: it's a tribute to the energies and vision of I guess just one or two people, one certainly being our guide who started as a typist there 20 years ago and now seems to run the place. This unusual royal coat of arms is up in the main hall, not as large or elegant as the Pittville Pump Room, but well used for chamber music, I note from the bumf.