Basildon Park

  

These photos are from a visit to Basildon Park a National Trust property in Berkshire, which we visited on Sunday. I’m glad we went before the storms of this week, as I reckon the petals of the rose garden might now have been blown away!

The interesting thing about this is that Lady Iliffe didn’t die until 2007 and so there is a video of her speaking about how she and her husband came to buy the property after the War. It’s not very often that you have the opportunity to see and hear the last inhabitants of an NT house, for obvious reasons. They had seen it before, in the late thirties, and hadn’t forgotten it. One day they passed nearby, wondering what became of the place, and ended up joining Men from the Ministry of Works on an impromptu tour. It had sat empty for fifty years, apart from being requisitioned during both the First and Second World Wars. As you see it’s a solidly impressive building. It must have taken a big pot of money to renovate and restore; but as Lord Iliffe was a newspaper magnate, photographed with Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook amongst others, that probably was not a huge issue….

 I loved the view from the gardens at the back. The Berkshire (pronounced “bark-sher”) countryside rolls beautifully on. We had a good walk in the woodland and looked around the house. It was good to revisit as I had memories of some horrible 1950s decor in the house in the early noughties (I think): a plastic bed-surround with a white plastic teasmaid and polyester bedspread. The lovely gallery guide told me the house was now much improved and we’d find it very altered. I was much younger (practically a child) that first visit and expected faded grandeur, not a pink telephone by the bed! 

When I win my pot of Lottery money I shall buy a Lifetime Membership of The National Trust. It’s always a great day out, with chances for a good walk too. (This reminds of a film we had a recommendation to watch: Golden Age, it’s fun and has a fantastic British cast.)

Greys Court 

Such a lovely day at Greys Court, National Trust property, yesterday.

We did the woodland walk and ended up sort of mindlessly following a couple who were far ahead along the path, although for most of the time we hadn’t seen anyone else at all. I’m glad there were still some bluebells out. The upshot of following others, and not taking much notice, was that the 1 3/4 mile trail turned into 3 miles! But actually that’s perfect as 1 3/4 miles is not really a long enough walk for me. Things turned a bit surreal when we got chatting, as we all tried to find the official path, and I recommended they visit The Fan Museum in Greenwich, not so much for the fans but for a perfect example of a merchant’s London townhouse. She then mentioned a town up north where there are a number of great NT properties to visit. He interjected with “Oh, where your friend X lives?” And I’m not sure why, but I asked if it was the X married to X? This is something that’s always amused me when I’m travelling abroad; someone will ask if I know Liz in Ealing when I mention London. But, would you believe it was the same X who is indeed married to X! The woman and my friend are trustees of the same charity and know each other very well. It just shows that however random the question seems, sometimes it’s really worth asking.

We then moved on to girl-talk about the best place to buy girlie shoes while the men plodded on behind, trying to make sense of the map and find the correct path! Eventually we four found ourselves back at the car park and had completed our circular walk, in a wiggly fashion.

I really love NT days out as there’s usually a good chance to walk amongst stunning countryside. They’re often built on the side of a hill so there are plenty of great views and you get out of puff, which always makes you feel like you’ve done a ‘proper walk’. Of course then there’s a cafe or picnic, if we’re really organised, for lunch (and cake?) at the end. Basically if you’re stuck for what to do on a Sunday, I’d say choose to visit a NT property for: great walks, gardens to explore, a house (…cottage, townhouse, manor, priory, windmill, castle….?) cafe and shop. The free tours can be fascinating and well done too.

I spend much of the time imagining I’m the lady of the house wandering around. Or perhaps the Governess, or the house-keeper. When I’m not drifting about in a day-dream I find the other visitors are usually friendly. I always end up chatting to someone anyway. I’m not keen on some dogs, but they all have to be kept on leads and are mostly the relaxed and well behaved type of family dogs, that don’t make my hands sweaty and my heart race.

Greys Court have a very easy and unfussy system of selecting free flow tickets to see the house; we simply selected our own ticket from a box for the time we fancied. It was so much easier than being offered and accepting a specific slot, without time to think and opportunity for a quick conflab. I am so glad we left 2.5 hours for exploring, since our prolonged walk and leisurely lunch were not rushed at all. By the way: I always go for the ham salad sandwich at NT cafes as I reckon they’re usually the best.
The gardens were a delight too, kitchen gardens in particular fascinate me. I stroll along imagining snipping a bit of this and digging a few of those to cook. Or in Housekeeper mode it’s the kitchen lad or maid, of course. It’s also the pleasing parallel rows of vegetables that are so soothing to my orderly soul. (Another word is sometimes used, but I live with a barbarian.)

Mum has been telling me for a while that I should visit when the wisteria is flowering. I see why now. The scent was heavenly and it wasn’t at its best either; after weeks of very dry weather, then torrential rain. Plus I guess it’s coming to the end of its flowering season. I’ll make a note to go back next May…

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Beautiful bluebells

Not many words are needed today. I’d run out of superlatives anyway; trying to describe the beauty of this bluebell wood. 

This year again we didn’t see any deer, though we did stand still several times when we heard rustling in the undergrowth. 

Mum, when I first started blogging, used to say: “You’re taking so many photographs!” Now it’s: “Have a look at your blog later to see when we came here last year.” And: “Take the bluebells in front of that magnificent horse chestnut. There are such pretty celandines here with bluebells behind, the colours look lovely together. Here’s a pretty group of cowslips.” She’s right of course, so I snapped them all for you. 
Here are blog posts from previous visits to the same woods, in 20142015 and 2016. I think you might recognise some of the trees and paths.

Upton House & Garden 

Well hello! I know, it’s been a while… I never really do much crochet or knitting during the summer, but this year I haven’t sewn yet either. I thought you might be interested to see somewhere I recently visited and found fascinating. I admit there are a lot of typewriter photos, I just loved them!

Upton House and Gardens in Warwickshire, is a National Trust Property with a current exhibition called: Banking for Victory. It once belonged to Lord Bearstead, whose father founded Shell Oil. (More information here.) In 1939 the family moved out of the house and the family bank relocated from London, for the duration of the Second World War. Mary Berry opened this exhibition last Autumn. I finally got around to visiting earlier this month.

This is the film tent with a little introductory film to the exhibition…      



The exhibition is superb. The great thing is that the NT do not want you to treat it as a museum, you are actively encouraged to open drawers, sit on chairs and sofas and basically be the nosy Parker that I you always want to be, but feel you can’t in most NT properties. Needless to say I sat and typed a paragraph at one of the typewriters, what no spell check? I opened some filing cabinets, rifled through the in/out trays and read some correspondence, read some Wartime newspapers and sat in the Bank Manger’s chair!

The attention to detail in the house is fantastic. For example: there are toothbrushes and hairbrushes in the dormitories, and much more, open magazines and knitting which seem to have been put down for a minute in the staff room, postcards displayed from local villages and towns and maps of cycle routes.

The bank staff left families and friends in London to live and work at Upton. It seems that they had a ‘good war’ living in the relative safety of the countryside, but lived with guilt knowing their loved ones were in danger and suffering in the war-torn city.

This doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to me, but different times perhaps?!

Knitting! I found knitting!

The project is something you can become involved in, if you fancy. See here for details. You have until 30th September deadline if you want to send some bunting. What really impressed me, while I knitted a bunt (is this the singular of bunting?!) and chatted to one of the organisers is that at the end the finished triangles will be stitched together to make blankets for charity. What a great idea and a practical use of the knitting at the end. I often wonder what becomes of things after yarn bombs and record attempts. I didn’t take a pic of my knitting. I’m not sure why, but you really didn’t miss much!

Today was a return visit to Upton as it poured after the tour around the house, so the gardens had to wait. I’m glad actually as the herbaceous border is now stunning with all the sun we’re enjoying. It was a lovely hot day.

Are you crafty during the summer, or more like me?

Gunby Hall & Gardens 

   
    
    
    
    
 Gunby Hall and Gardens in Lincolnshire were looking spectacular yesterday. Yes, this was yesterday not mid-July! What a beautifully warm day. Gunby is definitely one of our favourite National Trust properties of the year: the staff were extremely welcoming, but not intrusive, the hall and garden were immaculate, fresh produce from the garden is sold cheaply in the shop, I picked up a brilliant bargain in the secondhand book area and the coffee and walnut cake was delicious. Win win! 

On Saturday there was another BBQ in the field, the last of the year I guess now. If you fancy seeing a couple of the charity shop crochet blankets, which my cousin picked up for people to use when the sun goes down, then check out my Instragram pics (click on the camera icon in pink,  top right of this page). Because nether of us had made them, there was no worry about ketchup/wine/beer spills, sweet little cocker spaniels  jumping up to sit on your lap for a fuss, or whatever else! Apart from a China Teacup Poodle, which I used to have to suffer sitting on my lap in a friend’s car in Australia, this is the first time I’ve willingly had a dog sit on my lap. It’s actually ok, but I’m not making a habit of it. Cats though are welcome. 

To a Snowdrop



Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and its frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

William Wordsworth, 1819.

Fashion and Textile Museum: Knitwear, Chanel to Westwood

Yesterday a friend and I went to the latest exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile museum in Bermondsey. I’ve visited a few exhibitions there before (Kaffe Fassett and Bellville Sassoon.) It really is a gem of a place. Originally founded by Zandra Rhodes in 2003, it’s now operated by Newham college.
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Before buying our tickets a few weeks ago I’d Googled to see if there were any discounts. It’s so worth doing this before buying anything online. The results showed an Amazon Local deal several pounds cheaper, with vouchers for two hot drinks at the cafe. While I waited for my friend I used mine, I’m not sure why I chose hot chocolate as it was 21 degrees by mid morning! This is very strange weather for October – though beautiful.

The exhibition brochure begins: ‘Knitting is one of the most fundamental textile techniques, produced from a continuous yarn and simple needles, yet its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. Early examples of knitting dating from Coptic and Egyptian cultures still exist, along with hats, stockings and knitted undergarments from the sixteenth century…”

Most of the examples of knitted and crocheted garments are from a private collection and the exhibition ‘reflects the emotions we invest in objects.’

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I took this with the wacky and wonderful Jill in mind. At the moment she’s busy crocheting rhino horns for beanies. That seems to be one of her typical working days.

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This is an Edwardian wool petticoat from 1907. Can you imagine wearing it under layers of clothing?

To read some blogs there are current designers and makers who write as if they invented ripple and chevron patterns, but in 1907 (and probably long, long before) women were choosing red and black wool and rippling away. It’s quite humbling isn’t it? Nice too, to think we’re just many in a long history of the craft.

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How old is this crochet dress? When would you date it?
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It’s from H&M and was sold in the 1990s. Did it fool you, like it fooled us?
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Items from the 1940s Make Do and Mend era during The Second World War. There are examples of old dresses reworked into new skirts and garments knitted or crochet from many oddments of wool.
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The exhibition is not without faults I’m sorry to say. Some other women we chatted to felt that there was not enough information about how items were made and they regretted not being able to see garments from all angles. Curiously the displays were standing in what looked like giant packing crates. Signage is rather unclear so it takes some time to work out which garment information refers to. I found displays on top of crates really frustrating. They were at least 7′ up in the air and you couldn’t see them clearly. Why?!

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Wonderful fair isle tank tops. As we read the info the four of us all chorused – before we came to it – “And the Prince of Wales was sent one and wore it to see the GOLF and that’s how fair isle became famous.” It’s obviously one of those tidbits that everyone remembers.

There was much more to see and this is just a taster. The exhibition is there until January 18th. Although we experienced some irritations with the display I would still recommend visiting if you can, as the sheer range of items is interesting. I heard many cameras clicking and comments as people recollected similar clothing they, or their Grannies, used to wear!

Afterwards we walked towards the river. Look at all those t-shirt wearing people. In October! In London! ENGLAND! I was one of them, because thank goodness I checked my weather app before I left home.
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Looking across the river we could see that the area around the Tower of London was busy, but it wasn’t until today that I heard of the surge of people who took advantage of half term’s sunny weather to go and see the poppy installation, a memorial for the British and Colonial soldiers who died in the First World War. Apparently Tower Bridge tube station had to close several times during the day. And now visitors are asked to delay going until next week because of the crowds.
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Isn’t Tower Bridge pretty? Spotted the bird?

Next we aimed to walk to Greenwich, along the Thames path as far as we could go, as we had tickets to visit somewhere really cool (not at all) but paused at The Angel, Rotherhithe for some of Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire finest. Sitting on the outside balcony watching the river craft passing, hearing the water lapping below while soaking up the sun turned out to be a very good thing too. When the sun shines like that you make the most of it. And the other thing will have to wait until the end of the month.

Happy November to you.

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Yesterday we had yet another late Summer day; t-shirt, sandals and sitting outside weather. We’ve been really fortunate this week. It seems that oop north the weather is not being so kind. I overheard a couple from Yorkshire saying that it’s much warmer down here. Being determined to make the most of it we went to explore another National Trust house and garden. It’s about twelve years since we first visited and found Snowshill Manor and Garden a delight.

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“Snowshill Manor is a Cotswold manor house packed with extraordinary treasures collected over a life time by Charles Wade

Inside these rooms you can discover this eclectic collection that he restored and displayed. We have maintained the atmospheric settings he created with low lighting and few labels. From tiny toys to Samurai armour, musical instruments to fine clocks, thousands of objects are laid out for you to see just as Mr Wade intended.

The garden is the perfect place to unwind and explore hidden vistas, quiet corners and unexpected delights including Charles Wade’s uncomplicated home, the Priest’s House.

“Let nothing perish” was his motto, and his life was dedicated to doing just that. From the everyday to the extraordinary, you can discover his passion for craftsmanship, colour and design.” National Trust Website, 14th September 2014.

You’re never quite sure what you’ll discover next when exploring the house. The collection is not to everyone’s taste; in one room a woman exclaimed that it was all a bit spooky. This might be due to the gloomy lighting, the strange mix of things or perhaps the many faces depicted on items, which can be unsettling. I know exactly what she meant, but it’s a fascinating place to look around. For me the garden is the best part…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. I always think of people far away from the English countryside who enjoy seeing glimpses, but know picture heavy posts of outings and holidays are not everyone’s thing.

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I’ve heard that there’s a new crochet magazine coming out in the UK this coming week called #crochet. I’m trying to find who, when, where but my friend Google has surprisingly not thrown up any answers at all. If you have any info about the mag, please share!