Christmas at Upton House

Another Sunday, another day out to see a National Trust property decorated for Christmas: Upton House and Gardens, Warwickshire

‘If you’re looking for something a little different this Christmas, Upton House has the answer with a festive calendar of events and the chance to see first hand how the new owners in the 1920s created a Christmas family home perfectly in keeping with the arrival of the jazz era.

It’s 90 years since Lord and Lady Bearsted purchased Upton House near Banbury and set about turning it into a comfortable and desirable country home. This Christmas, you can follow the renovations they made and witness the before and after transformation as they set about creating a ‘made to measure’ Christmas.

Visitors to the house will be able to draw inspiration from 1920s house and garden experts with hints and tips cards placed in four of the main rooms. The partitions in the long gallery have also been removed to show how it would have looked once Lord and Lady Bearsted had settled in.’

From the NT website

I wrote about when I went to see a special war-time exhibition in 2016 if you’d like to see how the house looks from the outside and see a few photos taken during Summertime.

Upton house is looking particularly lovely with the 1920s and 30s style decorations. There’s always such a nice atmosphere there. It’s a house you can imagine living in; unlike some of the more palatial NT properties which can often be filled with too much ostentatious bling. Because of their vast size too, they often seem to have strange ghostly vibes in the echoing corridors and back staircases. Upton doesn’t feel like that at all. It exudes a cosy vibe, not a ghostly one, and still feels very much like a family home.

All along the paths were little clippings where people had been foraging for greenery to make this and other wreaths and decorations for the house. This one on Butler’s Cottage, which is adjacent to the main house, would have been awarded my prize for Best in Show, Christmas 2018. I really like the dried orange slices and bundles of cinnamon sticks with the gold ribbon and miniature baubles.

Those holly leaves look as if it they’ve been polished.

A couple came walking along the path when I was singing ‘The Holly and the Ivy’. She started laughing, which of course made me sing it a little more loudly. Join in! We’ll start a choir!

The Mirror Pool from right to left, with a final photo to illustrate why it has been given its name. See the clouds reflected? The terraces above will be full of kitchen garden plants, both fruits and vegetables, and it also has long beds of flowers come the  warmer weather. Upton holds the National Collection of Asters, it’s well worth a visit in early autumn to see these late flowering beauties.

I love winters like this, where it’s sunny and bright but with a really crisp feel to the air. Because Upton is on a hill when the wind blows, oh! You definitely find yourself wrapping your coat more tightly around you. In the midst of a cold winter, you would need a constantly refilled pot of tea and a stack of good books.

The wreath on the door to the cafe had such a variety of items that I photographed it in sections. Should I ever learn how to make my own, I thought I could return to these pictures for inspiration. (Now I’m dithering over the page up button as perhaps the Butler’s Cottage wreath isn’t my favourite? Could I award both joint First Place?)

Apparently the gingerbread men smelt gorgeously spicy. I feel the Entrance Hall tree was probably lucky to be left intact, but that was only because “They were all tied on!”

The golden tree at the end of the Long Gallery. This is very much a rich man’s country home, filled with an extensive private art collection, bought with some of the fortune made from Shell Oil. If you concentrated on looking at each painting you would need several days to spend on those alone. We spotted paintings by Hogarth, Gainsborough and Canaletto to name a few. If you are interested, you can read about the art here.There was lot more besides: more trees, more decorated rooms both upstairs and downstairs, but I make a conscious effort not to take hundreds of photos There has to be a balance between wandering and enjoying the atmosphere and not seeing it all through a screen. I’ve captured the look of the house and gardens, which hopefully gives you a flavour of the property.

Last night I bought my first Christmas fiction of the season. It’s lovely. I’m already half a dozen chapters in, the Kindle version is only 99p if you also want a cosy warming read. (No affiliate links here, just a nice book recommendation.) Of course it’s also worth checking out your local library catalogue, that way you can read it for free!

Have you visited anywhere that made you feel all Christmassy, cosy and warm, without lots of commercial hype and those ubiquitous Bratwurst Stalls? Upton House just won that award too.

The little black cat with the powder puff tail 

I’ve knit some more of the washcloth I started last week. Doesn’t the stitch definition look fabulous with the cotton? On Thursday morning I did some train knitting, surrounded by suits, laptops and newspapers. I will not be intimidated. I shall craft. 

And look! I’ve darned 3 1/2 ends in the Wave Blanket. I meant to do 10 last night; but had to put it down to concentrate on Who Do You Think You Are. It was Ruby Wax and her family’s story was making my eyes brim (then I kept gasping.) Maybe I’ll do 16 1/2 ends later to make up for it. 

I’ve felt better about adding parchment into my garter stitch blanket. It does look better than I imagined, with the blended yarns. Thanks for the reassurance Vikki. Last night I restricted myself to six rows only so as to keep my elbow happy. It’s hard to put something you’re enjoying down, isn’t it?

This is my third and last, for a while, zippy bag which I made at Sewing Club on Monday night. Next week I’m trying something different. I’m a bit slack on the prep and lack confidence about what to make. I’d prefer it if the tutor came with all we needed, did a tutorial and we went off to make it. Lazy aren’t I?! But it’s like Knit & Crochet Groups where you take whatever you want to make. (Though she does do a quick tutorial for various things which you can try at home. This week it was lacy knickers! We naughty ones sniggered seeing how tiny medium was and decided we’d just get a multi-pack from M&S!) Shelly sits across from me and is a machine. She always sits right down and starts sewing what she’s prepped beforehand. No faff, or excess chatter until she’s made a start. She’s sewn so many different items this term that I tease her about her work ethic, while feeling fairly rubbish about mine. She’s only little and wears quite high heeled stompy boots. When I said about wanting to try something new next week but not sure what, she marched across to my table and wrote in my notebook saying very firmly: “Bring four pieces of material cut to these sizes. It’s easier than what you’ve been making tonight. Just do it!” O.M.G. Right then. I’m far to scared not to do it!

Mum’s dahlias. Perfection.

Well here he is – that little cat I mentioned a few weeks ago. And oh, you did make me laugh. Occasionally I’ll write that I’ve got a bad cold, a real stinker, or that my elbow is sore. Once I remember reporting that I got out of bed and fell over as my knee had gone kaput. I don’t remember many comments about any of these, but I casually end a Yarning Along post with ‘I must dash, as I’ve got to take a little black cat with a powder puff tail to the vets’ and you’d think I’d said the sky had fallen down! The comments, private messages, both sympathetic and worried, really amused me! He was only going for a dab of this and a tablet of that. He’s young and is in very fine fettle, but I realised I’d worried the cat ladies! (But thanks for all the sympathy when I’m poorly, no really you’re just so caring.) So I took his photo for you because as I walked into Mum’s garden yesterday, to photograph the dahlias I saw him sitting under the apple tree. He was next to the shed where she was potting up hyacinth and tulip bulbs. Maybe he was being a guard cat?

This week I’m reading Ruby Wax Sane New World on my Kindle, which is why I particularly wanted to see her episode of WDYTYA. It’s interesting learning about mindfulness. And I’m also listening to the rest of the  Alan Bennett plays. I feel I might need to hear A Question of Attribution again. I was marching around the countryside when I heard it and think I missed some of the nuance. 

Do you listen to audio books or prefer podcasts? What are you watching on TV at the mo?


Yarning Along

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link to your post in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along. 

Yarning Along = yarny stuff you’re making and what you’re reading (‘a good yarn’) but let’s not get too bogged down…if you’re reading mags, gardening or recipe books that counts, as does sewing, jewellery making or whatever. Just tell us about what you are making and reading.

Yarn Along 


I can’t show you what I’m making, except to say that it’s a blanket; as requested by my cousin. The colours were chosen to compliment Emma Bridgewater china she collects. I think the plan is to have the blanket over the back of a church pew she has near her dresser in her cottage. When I said I was going to look for a pumpkin shade of orange, to match, she said she’d far prefer Space Hopper orange. Oh my..! Then:”How about some lavender too?” She’d noticed I’d used it in other blankets.

The out of my colour comfort zone has become a bit of a joke here, so when I took it out after a break (I’ve finished the V Stitch scarf) the Mister suddenly yelled out in mock horror. I was so startled it made me leap up out of my chair!

I have checked that it’s going to hit by the spot by showing her man, who says she’ll love it, it’s exactly what she wants colourwise. He even said how soft it looks and how warm it will be; he knows just what to say at times.The blanket design is a surprise and as I’m not sure how often she looks here it’s going to have to stay under wraps for now. We’ll do our usual late Christmas celebration sometime earlyish next year. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about the colour combo!

The third Rosie Hopkins book is turning out to be quite an entertaining read, and not so sickly as expected. 

I know you know this, but I’m joining in with Ginny’s Wednesday Yarn Along link up again.