Monday, 24 March 2014

A National Trust Bonanza

Basildon Park
Last weekend Becks and I decided to make the most of our soon to expire National Trust passes by visiting a few places in and around Oxfordshire. The weekend was made extra special by the fact we elongated it with two days off work and the glorious early Spring weather we had.

On the Friday afternoon we visited Basildon Park. I didn't think I'd ever been before, but when I saw the back of the house I remember a summer concert / jazz event type thing I'd been to over a decade before with my school friend Will and his family.

We started off with a walk through the grounds which took us about an hour. It thankfully wasn't too muddy on the tracks we took as I'd only taken one pair of shoes with me for the weekend and they were completely unsuitable for mud.

After our walk we had a quick rest in the deck chairs arranged on the lawn to soak up some of the afternoon sunshine and then it was into the house. We whipped through pretty quickly as it was approaching closing time and we wanted to see some of the formal gardens as well.

The house had been used to film the Downton Christmas special (I've still never seen an episode) and there were a few photos from the filming around the house. I also, oddly, remember the carpets. The NY have had special carpets made which replicate both the design of the original rugs in the house and the floorboards. Walking on carpeted floor board was a little wierd.

The tour of the house finished in the 1950s kitchen which was formica cool. An NT volunteer in the kitchen was baking biscuits and we wall tasted one as we left the house.

On Saturday we visited Mottisfont, a house built out of a medieval abbey. The gardens were covered in spring bulbs (which I did well not to capture in the photo above).

We again started in the gardens, admiring the winter garden before checking out the walled garden. I'm not usually one for plants, but the red twig dogwood was rather nice. I can't believe I've just written about a plant, middle age beckons.....
Walled garden at Mottisfont
After lunch in the café we headed into the house. For me the most interesting part of the house was the Lichfield photography exhibition that they were showing on the upper floor. There were over fifty excellent portraits capturing key figures from the 1960s onwards. Definitely worth a look.

After visiting the house we had a quick walk along the river, a visit to the shop and then it was time to head home. Becks and I both managed to fall asleep in the back of the car on the way home.

Greys Court
On Sunday we went for the hat trick of NT properties with a visit to Greys Court, a 16th Century house that was lived in until 2004.

We were basking in our third day of sunshine which had brought out the crowds. Seeing a packed café we decided to start our visit with a walk round the grounds. The woods were pleasantly quiet compared to the crowds on the lawn.

When we got back to the house we made a bee line to the café for a late lunch. The recently renovated café had been caught on the hop by all the crowds and was running out of food. The service was dreadfully slow. I know a lot of the staff are volunteers, but they need to sort their systems at the tills out!

After lunch it was into the house. Having been inhabited by elderly residents relatively recently it was stuck in a rather charming time warp, decorated with the possessions of the Brunner family. Like Basildon Park there was a volunteer in the kitchen baking biscuits. Sadly this batch had a slightly odd flavour.
Becks in the garden
After lunch we had a look around the walled garden and a climb up the tower. The walled garden was divided into number of spaces and it would be great to visit in summer when some of the mature planting is in full bloom.

We finished our afternoon reading the Sunday papers in the garden with the warm sun slowly going down behind the house.
Water feature in the walled garden

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