BeenThere-DoneThat Blog

A blog about life and travel in Great Britain

On the road to ruin.

2 comments

Travelling around the country, as we do, we expect to see both the usual and the unusual – but not together on the same site. This place is only an hours drive from home.

The earliest building on this site was a Jacobean brick built house. After the civil war it was sold and the new owner erected two towers on the north side of the house and his grandson added the wings which enclose the entrance courtyard. Later a new private chapel was added to the west of this courtyard.

Around 1805 the owners employed John Nash, a well known English architect, to carry out a major reconstruction of the house which included the addition of huge ionic porticoes to the north and south fronts.

In 1837 serious debt forced the sale of the estate to the 11th Baron Ward, later 1st Earl of Dudley, who had inherited a great fortune from the coal and iron industries in the Black Country.

In the 1850s, Baron Ward engaged the architect Samuel Daukes, who had already altered his London house to remodel the house in Italianate style using ashlar stone cladding over the existing red brickwork and this is the result – Witley Court near the village of Great Witley in Worcestershire..

What a very grand house it is with the very impressive fountain behind it.

However you may not have noticed something odd about the house in the first photograph. There is no glass in any of the windows and the sky is visible through some of the windows as seen in the picture below.

In 1920 Witley Court was sold to Sir Herbert Smith who maintained only a skeleton staff to manage the house whilst he and his family were away, and many areas were left unused. A major accidental fire broke out in September 1937 whilst Sir Herbert was at another of his houses and although it did not destroy the whole house the estate was sold as separate lots with the house being bought by scrap dealers who stripped what they could from the house leaving it an empty shell. So we have what appears to be the usual stately home but is, unusually, just a shell. A rather sad ending for such a grand house.

The ruin is currently managed by English Heritage.

The picture below is the main reception hall with the main staircase through the arch in the far wall.

The picture below is in the main stairwell and the angled plaster follows the line of the original staircase.

There are numerous decorative carvings around the building of which this doorway is an example.

This picture shows the main entrance to what was the Conservatory and the picture below it is the Conservatory interior.

The church is still attached to the main house but is not maintained by English Heritage as it is now the parish church.

But what a parish church. It was built in the mid 18th century and, at that time, the interior was rather plain. Just 10 years later stained glass windows and the oil on canvas paintings on a new curved ceiling were added together with  moulds for the wall and ceiling decorations and the organ.

What an astonishing result! If you are ever in this area don’t miss seeing the church interior.

From Iron to Copper – Day 4

2 comments

We appear to have another sunny day and another breakfast. Do we have any special plans for today? Well yes we do. We are going to the top of that limestone lump in the distance on the far side of the bay but we are going to cheat.

We set off walking along the sea front eventually taking an upward path and after a short climb we look back to this view of the Llandudno sea front.

A bit higher still we get this view with the mountains of Snowdonia showing beyond the town. However, have you noticed anything? There is less and less blue sky – the cloud is building.

A bit higher and we get a nice view of Llandudno Pier but now with a cloudy sky.

Looking in the opposite direction we can see the Great Orme (the limestone lump) that we are going up and some lingering blue sky.

However before we go up any higher we have come to look at the 19th century Happy Valley Gardens. This area was a quarry before being developed and landscaped as rockery gardens . These gardens are generally sloping and a bit steep in places but worth visiting if you can cope with the slope. There were a few sculptures scattered around and we particularly liked these.

There were plenty of flowers but there should be even more later in the season.

They even have their own Laburnham Arch which is not going to compete with the one at Bodnant but it is already looking very pretty.

We walked a little way back into town to catch the tram to the top of the Great Orme. I did tell you we were going to cheat.

This is where we passed the tram which was coming down. The ‘driver’ doesn’t actually do anything, as the tram is moved by a cable worked by a winding engine, but he is there in case we need emergency braking.

We didn’t need any emergency braking after all but we are not impressed with the weather up here. We now have total cloud cover and it is rather cool which is made worse by the strong wind (cloud+cool+wind=dismal). Still it shouldn’t worry us where we’re going – underground.

We are going to visit the pre-historic copper mines re-discovered in 1987. These mines date back 4,000 years to the Bronze Age and, before you ask, that is before my time. The mine is thought to be the largest prehistoric mine so far discovered in the world.

We started by having a look around the surface workings.

We could see various dark holes going down vertically but luckily for us we won’t have to go down those. One of the shafts here goes down 437 feet :shock: . There were obvious spaces on the surface where they would have extracted the ‘easy to get to’ copper ore but that would have run out fairly soon so it was a matter of giving up or tunnelling and they chose the latter.

The entrance is between the path in the foreground and the steps on the right-hand edge in the picture above and this is it. Not very big is it?

The tunnels turned out to be just wide enough to walk along carefully. Amanda is somewhere ahead in the dark!

It was also essential for us to be wearing hard hats otherwise we both would have ended up with bent heads.

There were also steps in a number of places going both up and down. These steps have been installed for visitors and the original miners didn’t have that luxury.

The passage takes one on a U-shaped journey and eventually emerges a short distance from the entrance. I would have liked to show you some of the other features that we saw but the lighting is very dim and my little flash was too small to cover the larger spaces. It was, however, a very interesting and unusual trip.

What visitors see is just a small part of the total mine workings. There are, literally, miles of passages; some so small that they must have been excavated by children around 6 years old.

We went back down on the tram, of course, and that was the end of our day.

We were originally planning a visit of some sort on the journey home tomorrow but as the weather forecast is much the same as today but with rain we went straight home so no ‘Day 5’.

‘Day 5’ did turn out to be a cool, cloudy day and we did have rain on the drive home.

Better luck next time.   :roll:

From Iron to Copper – Day 3

1 comment

Another morning. Another breakfast. Another sunny day. Another day trip. This is getting boring. Can I cope with all this good weather?

After breakfast we set off on a 30 minute trip to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor. This is another National Trust property and a rather unusual one at that. We arrived at the entrance without mishap and it looked a normal enough gateway.

When we caught sight of the castle it looked like a rather impressive Norman castle.

We knew, however, that this castle was built in the 19th century as a family home and not a military building at all. When we started out we were dubious that we would like a ‘fake’ norman castle but we enjoyed it very much and you will, hopefully, see why.

Penrhyn Castle was built between 1820 and 1833 for George Hay Dawkins Pennant by the famous architect Thomas Hopper. Known for his unorthodox style, Hopper opted not to follow the fashion for Gothic architecture but went against the grain choosing a neo-Norman design. Hopper’s hands-on approach also meant he oversaw the designing and building of the castle’s furniture, made by local craftsmen. In 1951 the castle came into the care of the National Trust.

Before we went inside the main building we went into the Courtyard first. The courtyard is very large and has been turned into a railway museum.

The Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum is dedicated to local narrow gauge railways. In the 19th century, Penrhyn Castle was the home of the Pennant family owners of the Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda. The quarry was closely associated with the development of industrial narrow-gauge railways, and in particular the Penrhyn Quarry Railway, one of the earliest industrial railways in the world. The railway ran close to Penrhyn Castle, and when the castle was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1951 a small museum of industrial railway relics was created in the stable block.

The first locomotive donated to the museum was ‘Charles’ from the Penrhyn Quarry

and this is the driver.

The rather impressive locomotive below, ‘Fire Queen’, is one of the older locomotives in the museum having been built in 1848.

This next picture shows another of the locomotives together with a gawking bystander. You can also see how they have squeezed many locomotives into this narrow gallery. The width of the gallery makes photography difficult but I managed to photograph some. Amanda is actually trying to work out how we are going to squeeze this one into our garage.

This is the actual courtyard with the locomotive gallery on the right. When we had seen enough we went through the archway at the end and walked round to the front entrance of the house.

We went into the front entrance and found ourselves in a small, short, unpretentious corridor with a door at the end. We went through that door and emerged into an entirely different space – and I mean SPACE. The first picture of the reception hall is taken from the ground floor level and the second picture from the gallery which is visible in the first.

That should give you an idea of the scale of this place. Everything is larger than life.

The main staircase is pretty amazing with just about everything featuring carved stonework. This chap must have had money to throw away.

There were some very long corridors on the upper floor like the one above which disappears off into the distance. All in all this house is extraordinary and we would quite happily visit again.

Having seen round the house we trotted off to the walled garden and on the way saw this view with lots of buttercups. Nice!

The first part of the garden is formal in design which includes this area with the pond and box hedges together with a rather strange woman who looks as though she’s about to get up to mischief of some sort.

This Azalea shrub looks spectacular.

Further down the garden it becomes informal with a natural looking pond, an observation deck and a little summer house of sorts.

That was the end of our visit to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor but it wasn’t the end of of our day. Our next destination is Anglesey; an island off the north coast of Wales.

After a short journey, which included crossing the bridge over the Menai Strait to Anglesey, we arrived at the National Trust property of Plas Newydd, parked our car and started to walk up to the house. Along the way we couldn’t help but notice this row of rather fine cedar trees with interesting fluted trunks.

The house is in a rather nice position overlooking the Menai Straits but is not as imposing as the one we have just come from but it is still bigger than ours.  :oops:

This next picture shows the Menai Straits with the bridge that we used in the distance (You can just about see the bridge on the horizon).

There is plenty of parkland but not much in the way of gardens except for the small Italianate Terrace.

As far as the house goes it is a fairly standard stately home with the usual rooms.

Lord Anglsey’s study below has been left exactly as he left it and I have to say that it does look a little on the untidy side. How on earth he could find what he wanted beats me.

From here we went back to Llandudno to prepare for yet another day.

From Iron to Copper – Day 2

1 comment

Day 2

Tuesday morning. Woke. Levered eyelids open to look out of window. Another sunny day.

After breakfast we drove all of 15 minutes to Bodnant Gardens, which is managed by the National Trust, and we have been here before about 30 years ago before this web site was even thought of so no photographs from that trip. It is not an old garden having been created around 1874 and there is a house but it is private and not open to the public. Bodnant means 'dwelling by a stream'.

The garden was gifted to the National Trust in 1949 when I was 13 years old which isn't really relevant but I thought you'd like to know.

A map of the garden

One of the things that we came to see was the Laburnum Arch.

How's that for a show stopper? This is very near the entrance so was an obvious first and I was lucky to get a photograph with so few people in it. The one trouble with Bodnant is that because it is world famous it is very popular and very busy.

Although the house is not open to the public it is visible.

I'd like to be able to have a look inside that conservatory.

A short way from the house we saw the occasional Rhododendron and at this time of year they seemed to be everywhere. It didn't seem to matter where we were or which direction we looked there would be rhododendrons. This garden houses one of four National Collections of Rhododendron forrestii, named after the plant collector George Forest, so that might explain it. Bodnant raised their own Hybrid Rhododendrons of which the garden has a mere 350.

As the garden is very large, at around 80 acres, and is on a slope, there is plenty of structure to it.

Above shows the Lily Pond with the Pin Mill building on the Canal Terrace. The building was added in 1938 having been built in 1730 in Gloucestershire; it was rescued from decay by Henry Pochin, the original founder of the garden, who dismantled it, brought it to Bodnant and rebuilt it brick by brick.

We plodded onward down the slope passing numerous rhododendrons on the way and caught sight of this cheeky chappie eating the flowers!. He certainly wasn't timid and if he eats them all he'll end up the size and shape of a pumpkin.

We could see from the view in the next picture that we were, at last, getting near the bottom of the valley and the river. Rhododendrons? What rhododendrons? You don't expect to see them everywhere do you? Oh! Wait!

At the bottom of the valley is the old mill and Amanda showing the way. Nobody mention rhododendrons!

The building is the old mill, a Grade II listed building, which was built around 1837 and was used to turn the wheels of the estate flourmill and then the estate sawmill. There is also a small refreshment kiosk here (it's a long uphill walk back to the main tearooms).

So that's the end of the garden then? You have to be kidding! There is now a greater distance to  the 'Far End' than we have already covered. So lets's not waste time – just follow us. Keep up and don't dawdle.

Off we go then and I'm not going to mention Rhododendrons.

I think that the poor chap above was just stunned by the amount of colour and in the next picture Amanda must have spotted something interesting (no it wasn't me).

Stepping stones across the River Hiraethlyn. The disappointing part, for you, is that Amanda didn't fall in. In walking along the valley one can walk on either side of the river and cross at any of the frequent bridges as shown below.

There are a number of lakes along the valley.

Finally we reach the 'Far End' BUT we now have to walk back and it's all UP. surprise  On the way back we popped in to have a look at this – The Poem. Perched on a steep bank overlooking the mill pond this beautiful building was built by Henry Davis Pochin, the original builder of this garden, as a last resting place for his family.

After all that walking we staggered out of the exit and slumped into our car. So was that the end of our day then? Well no. It was about the middle of the afternoon so, even though we were tired, we decided to travel the short distance to Conwy.

We have been to Conwy before and there are pictures on the main web site of that visit but there some things that we hadn't seen on that occasion. One of those was the suspension bridge built by Thomas Telford now owned and maintained by the National Trust. When we visited Conwy for the first time there was an entry fee and we thought that it wouldn't be value for money so we gave it a miss. This time, however, we were National Trust members so could get in free. When we arrived we found that there was now no charge and the bridge was open to all. blush

It is an impressive bridge and very attractive so it was a worth while visit. From here we walked down to the Quay to see something else that we had heard about.

A house can't come smaller than that surely unless you know better?

By this time our legs were worn down to the knees so we went back to the hotel. Another dinner, another sleep. Another day. What will the new day bring?

From Iron to Copper – Day 1

1 comment

Day 1

Monday morning. Sunny. Leap into car. Drive north like a bat out of hell to try to get to the first destination before the sun goes in. We just make it. Cloud has started to appear but there is still plenty of sunshine.

We started this trip, after driving north for an hour and a half, with these early 18th century wrought iron gates at Chirk Castle which we thought were very impressive. They must have been very expensive to make but, I suppose, if you can afford a home like Chirk Castle then a couple of gates wouldn't make much of a dent in the family fortune.

Visitors cannot get in this way but we had to stop and have a look before we went in the visitors normal entrance.

Chirk Castle is near the town of Chirk (no surprises there then) which is halfway between Oswestry and Wrexham. The castle is now owned by the National Trust and when approaching from the car park the castle looks pretty impressive.

Chirk Castle is similar to Beaumaris Castle which suggests that building work may have started as late as 1295 and was completed in 1310. It has over 700 years of history being the last castle from this period still lived in today.

Now this is what you call an entrance. This very imposing arch leads into the courtyard in the centre of the castle.

This courtyard is enclosed on four sides and, as you may deduce, refreshments may be obtained here. That Wisteria on the left-hand wall is a sight to behold.

The interior has had extensive modifications over the centuries and it is now nothing like the medieval fortress it used to be leaving it as a very comfortable home. We could tolerate that. These are some of the rooms.

The staircase is relatively small but rather attractive as is the upper landing.

Coming out of the castle we are confronted with this view. One can see why the castle was built here.

Then we went into the garden and what a garden! There were plenty of Rhododendrons in bloom, which certainly helped to add a lot of colour, but there were plenty of other flowers and plants too.

We rather liked the little thatched summer house.

Having seen just about everything at Chirk Castle we continued our journey to Valle Crucis Abbey just a little north of Llangollen . The abbey ruins are managed by Cadw ( the welsh equivalent of English Heritage). The abbey was built in 1201 and was dissolved in 1537 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

It is an impressive ruin although it has to be said that these welsh and english abbey ruins are very much alike. However we did enjoy looking around and it is one of the best preserved abbeys in Wales.

 

We took our leave of the abbey ruins and continued our journey to our final destination.

After driving for a total of 2 hours 30 minutes (that's from home to here) we arrived at Llandudno on the north coast of Wales, which is where we were staying, and this is our hotel on the sea front.

The picture below is the view from the seaward side of the road outside our hotel,  that limestone lump on the skyline is the Great Orme,

and this is the view out of our bedrooom window – can't be bad.

We did have a mostly sunny day after all but it is now time for dinner and then to bed to be ready for whatever tomorrow brings – I have my folding umbrella to hand.

Dally in the Valley

1 comment

This is a companion post (sequel) to March through the Arch which was our first visit to Croft Castle and this visit being our second. In case anyone doesn't know what 'Dally' means it means to walk slowly.

This time, although we revisited the Walled Garden, our prime objective was to walk through Fishpool Valley. Before we walked to Fishpool Valley the Walled Garden called.

The garden looked as delightful as ever.

There were plenty of flowers about with some visitors goggling at the view. cool

We couldn't have missed seeing this Dogwood in full bloom if we'd tried. What a sight!

It was now time for Fishpool Valley.

So – what is Fishpool Valley? It is described thus "Fishpool Valley was landscaped in the late eighteenth-century in the ‘Picturesque’ style. This was the movement to create a more natural landscape, using the principles of intricacy, roughness, variety and surprise. It features a chain of dams and pools, as well as architectural features such as an icehouse, grotto, pumphouse and limekiln. The careful planting of Oak, Ash, Willow, Poplar and evergreen species suggested the ‘bold roughness of nature’. Carriage rides and other walks were designed to follow the contours of the landscape, providing dramatic views across a wild, but beautiful, contrived scene."

However, because of lack of maintenance, the whole place is in a sorry state but the National Trust is starting a project to restore it to its original state.

 We started our walk from one end of Fishpool Valley and the first point of interest was a pond.

It did look a little unkempt and in need of some TLC but somebody liked it. There were literally clouds of damsel flies over the water; some brilliant blue and some red. For those of you that don't know damsel flies are part of the dragonfly family. They were obviously very happy here. We walked on.

We soon reached another pond and, if you look carefully, you should see a little stone building near the centre of the picture. That is the Pumphouse.

We peeked through the metal grill to see inside and were surprised to see some old machinery in the form of a waterwheel and some gearing.

These pools are fed by springs and the water is very clear. The Pumphouse was used to pump some of this water up to the house.

Walking ever onward we came across this stretch of path with some nice, very tall, trees which we thought were probably Douglas Firs.

Finally we reached the farthest point of our walk – the Lime Kiln. It is now in a ruinous state with the eastern tunnel in a reasonable condition but the opposite western tunnel has collapsed. The central chargehole is brick-lined but cannot be seen at present. I can see why they would have sited a kiln here as there is a small limestone cliff just behind it to provide the material to heat in the kiln and the resultant lime would have been used on the fields as a fertiliser.

We discovered after returning to the castle that there were the remains of a grotto further on which we missed. Oh well, next time then.

On the walk back from Fishpool Valley, which was a different route from our outward journey, we walked through some wood pasture featuring some impressive trees. When we saw the tree in the picture below Amanda said 'Ooh that's a lovely old Oak. I must go and have a look'. When she got nearer she suddenly stopped and said 'Oh it isn't an Oak it's a Chestnut. It is certainly a massive tree.

A little further on we saw this very large Purple Beech which is the same species as a Copper Beech but a different variety where the leaves are purple coloured rather than copper. Another very fine tree.

Well, once again, we come to the end of another little trip. We will probably go back.

We had been waiting for a sunny day and were beginning to think that it would never happen and then, suddenly, today it was sunny. Time for a trip methinks.

We set off for Ironbridge which is just over an hour by car from us going via St. Milburga's Well in the village of Stoke St Milborough. The well is actually a spring which was first mentioned in 1321 and is said to be unfailing and good for sore eyes. Our eyes weren't sore so we are unable to verify that. cool Villagers would rinse their clothes in the well and beat them on a flat stone nearby. It has been going for over 700 years and it hasn't stopped yet.

You can see from the picture that the flow of water is very strong.

Onward to Ironbridge.

Ironbridge has nine museums not counting the Iron Bridge itself and we drove to Blists Hill first which is set up as a Victorian town. This is a typical Victorian street.

There was a Fish & Chip Shop in this street where we bought a single portion of fish and chips, wrapped in paper, to share as our lunch and there was more than enough for the two of us. I can also tell you that it was very tasty indeed having been cooked in the Victorian way i.e fried in beef dripping (fat). The chips were crisp on the outside and soft inside – perfect.

There are a lot of Victorian buildings here including industrial, commercial and domestic together with lots of machines. The view below shows an old mining area with headgear above the shaft and the small brick building on the right houses the steam winding engine which hauls the cage up the shaft. The second picture below shows the actual steam winding engine which was running when we were there.

Nearby was the replica of Trevithick's Locomotive which is in steam often on a Saturday (check before you go). This was the world's first steam locomotive to run on rails.

We walked alongside the canal to the far end where we saw the Inclined Plane. This is a VERY steep hill with railway tracks on it which would be far too steep for a locomotive to be used so there was a steam winding engine at the top which was used to raise and lower barges from the canal at the bottom to the canal at the top and vice versa. That must have been a sight when it was working.

We then walked down by the side of the tracks to the lower level but if you are not capable of that you could walk back along the canal to the Funicular Railway or Inclined Lift which connects the upper and lower levels. This is completely automatic so just press the button to call the lift and then ride up or down to the other level.

There is a LOT to see here and you could easily spend a day in this museum alone.

Our next port of call was the Jackfield Tile Museum a short drive away. One point worth mentioning is that parking is chargeable but the ticket will allow you to park in any of the other museum car parks at no extra cost.

You don't drive through this entrance arch, the car park is off to the right, but you do walk through and the museum entrance is along on the left and is fairly obvious.

This was on Amanda's 'must see' list but I did wonder if I'd find it a bit boring. I needn't have worried; it is amazing.

There were some rooms, like this one, which display various, mostly individual, tiles but there are also many tile exhibits like this one.

Many of the exhibits and the individual tiles are astonishing.

After looking around the tile museum we moved on to the Coalport China Museum. There are two brick kilns here and the photographs below are taken from the same spot looking in both directions.

Parts of the internal structure of the kiln in the top photograph have been removed to give an idea of what goes on inside during firing.

There are also workshops where one can watch pottery being made and hand painted.

Which, of course, brings us to the Saggar Maker. This is him in his workshop and in the past he would have had two assistants including a Bottom Knocker. The Bottom Knocker would have been a young, unskilled lad who would have sat in a corner producing clay pads, using a shaped iron band, which would be combined,by the skilled Saggar Maker, with the sides to make the final Saggar. 

A Saggar is a large container made of fireclay which would hold pottery during firing to protect it and the next picture shows the cut-away view into a kiln with Saggars piled high.

There are also a number of display rooms where individual items can be seen.

As the pottery museum is only a short walk along the canal from the Tar Tunnel we went to have a brief look. I say a brief look because, at one time, visitors were able to walk along the tunnel but now one can look into the tunnel from the entrance but not walk along it. I'm hoping that sometime in the future it will, once again, be possible to walk along it but that may be months or even years.

The tunnel is about 1100 yards in length and it was originally designed to be an underground canal connecting some of the mine shafts to the Shropshire Canal. However whilst it was being dug the workmen hit a source of black, sticky tar which was discovered to be natural bitumen. The bitumen originally flowed in prodigous amounts at about 1000 gallons a week although it reduced some years later.

That was the end of our little trip so we went home. There are more museums that we haven't seen so we'll probably be back.

For more information on these museums see the Ironbridge pages on the main web site.

Spring? Who’s kidding who?

5 comments

If you are a meteorologist then you will regard today as the first day of Spring. Last night was the coldest it's been here this winter at 19F,  the temperature is forecast to stay lower than freezing point today, it's snowing here and it's supposed to be worse tomorrow. Spring? Ha!

I don't know when we'll make our next trip but perhaps we should consider buying some reindeer and a sleigh. cheeky

3rd March 2018 update:

We now have about a foot of snow here and the temperature has been below freezing for the last 3 days. Spring? Not a chance! crying

Galanthus Galore

4 comments

There were two firsts for us today; it was the first trip of the year and it was the first time that I had used my new camera. It wasn't warm but considering that it was February it wasn't anywhere near as cold as it could have been and the weather forecast was for sunny intervals which from my point of view was ideal. I didn't know whether what I wanted to photograph would look best in sunny or cloudy conditions so it looks as though I'd have the choice. Perfect!

We drove for an uneventful hour and ten minutes to the National Trust's Attingham Park just a few miles south-east of Shrewsbury. It was unfortunate that it was also half-term for the local schools so there were a LOT of parents with children. The National Trust staff told us that Attingham Park was the second in the list of most visited sites which we found surprising.

None of it, however, would affect why we were here.

The gardeners among you may recognise Galanthus as being the latin for Snowdrop, which they have here, and for those people who don't recognise the word 'Galore' it means 'in abundance'. They flower in February and this is what we came to photograph.

However not just those but THESE:

That's what I call a Snowdrop display.

After walking round the woods with the snowdrops we made our way over to the Walled Garden to see what that was like although we did not expect to see much at this time of year. Just before we entered the Walled Garden we saw this:

This is the Regency Bee House; a rather luxurious home for bee hives and one of only two such houses in the country. We went onward into the Walled Garden.

Very large but, as we suspected, there is virtually nothing in the way of plants yet; those pots on the left are covering Rhubarb plants in order to 'force' them i.e. make them grow taller than they otherwise would. There was also a separate walled area through an arch which was where the greenhouses were but again very little planting. We shall have to return in the summer.

We made our way out of the Walled Garden and decided it was time for lunch. The restaurant is in the Stables Courtyard area which still has some of the old stables which one can visit. You don't have to eat here unless, of course, you happen to be a horse.

There is also a shop and bookshop together with the inevitable toilets. We went into the Carriage House Cafe and liked the meals on offer and found ourselves a table. It has to be said that it was very busy with parents and children moving past nearly all of the time so if you want peace and quiet you'll be out of luck.

I chose a Fish Pie and Amanda had Sausage and Mash and they both turned out to be very tasty and of good quality. We would eat here again but perhaps we'd bring ear mufflers next time. laugh

After lunch we moved on to the house.

The Attingham Estate includes this mansion together with about 4000 acres of parkland including a Deer Park. We didn't visit the Deer Park this time but we did visit the house going in via the Entrance Hall.

The spaces between the pillars were originally open with the Grand Staircase beyond but John Nash, the architect, changed all that which explains why I thought it not as large or impressive as I'd imagined but I have to admit it's a bit better than ours. We don't for example have any trompe l'oeil panels in our hall but these are very good. The doorway off to the right takes us in to the Drawing Room.

The Drawing Room does have a rather impressive ceiling.

This next room is known as the Boudoir. It is circular with 7 doors (we counted them) and it also has an impressive ceiling. It was created for the 1st Lady Berwick as her own intimate space.

Then into the Inner Library with its Regency bookcases. The walls of the Inner Library are painted red; a popular Regency colour choice associated with strength and masculinity.

Around 1805-1807 John Nash, the English architect, included this rather grand staircase in his redevelopment scheme at Attingham as having removed the main staircase he needed a replacment.

One certainly couldn't miss it.

We now went down to the semi-basement which was the domain of the servants. The next picture showns the Servants Hall where they had their meals.

The rules that servants had to observe, which came from Lord Berwick, included:

"No servant is to absent themselves from the house at anytime or from meals on any pretence whotsoever without especial permission of the Steward, Housekeeper, Lady Berwick or myself."

So they are not allowed to skip a meal without permission which brings us to the Kitchen. Quite a large room with a lovely fire which was very welcome at this time of year.

Finally the Bell Room. I thought this to be quite extraordinary when there are so many bells, to demand attention from the servants, that they needed a room to themselves. These bells went around the four sides of the room and were divided into sections of which this was the Ground Floor.

That brought us to the end of our little trip, so early in the year, and back home we went to wait for the next one.

An earth-shattering experience.

1 comment

We felt an earthquake here yesterday afternoon surprise but, luckily, the earth-shattering bit was 50 miles south of us and about 5 miles down. I was sitting at my desk in my study creating some new pages for the web site when I heard a quiet, low rumble and I could feel the house vibrating. I wouldn't go so far as to say the house shook, it lasted for about 15 seconds and measured 4.4 on the Richter Scale. Rather minor really.

Living as we do in a quiet Welsh market town one doesn't expect earthquakes although they do occur very, very occasionally. I suppose if I had been Elvis Presley I might have said "I'm all shook up". angry