The Day Before …

The day before we head to Cornwall for a seaside holiday. My plan is to set out early-ish and stop at a National Trust/English heritage property somewhere on the way: make a day of the journey instead of a race or a plod. Thinking to visit a property further away that we haven’t seen before I am suddenly taken up short. There are so many local properties that we could visit but don’t; presumably, unconsciously deciding that, because they are local, they can wait (or are not worth visiting).

We went to Shugborough a month or so ago. The whole set up there has changed and I noticed a lake I have never seen before on the long, sweeping driveway in. Cars are now parked a reasonable, stretch of the legs walk (or shuttle bus ride) from the hall which gives a better context and leads through the walled garden that would in former times have stacked the kitchens.  Initially built for Admiral Hanson (who had villages moved so the grounds could be suitably landscaped ) and one-time home of the late Lord Lichfield this is a stunning place set in Cannock Chase. The Farm, gardens and riverside walks are charming indeed … and, inevitably bring back memories of earlier visits and escapades.

A warm day we walked slowly around the estate, the follies, the well-kept gardens alongside the river. It wasn’t meant to be a long stay, just a pleasurable amble around the gardens and beside the river; just a couple of hours out together. No need to go into the house this time or the servants quarters. But we did admire the stunning views of the house from the river, while cattle on the opposite bank stooped to drink  in a very bucolic scene. Tea and a scone in the café. Good service, thank you.

Then a visit to the fashionably-derided gift shop. As usual impulse-bought a couple of plants we hadn’t planned on – but have since found space for – that were artfully displayed outside.

But inside the shop I fell for a book. That’s usually the case with me: an inveterate browser.  Massive price of £2.99. There are some quite fascinating “niche” books to be found in National Trust bookshops, not all of them good. But this one, “Life on the Old Farm” by Tom Quinn with the modest banner “From Edwardian Times To the Coming of Mechanisation” had my attention. The very age my grandfather lived his farm-working life through.

To be brutally honest the book is a little repetitive: based seemingly on interviews with agricultural people from different parts of England and Wales. Their experiences, their views, their memories are all worth reading but inevitably there is common ground and echoes of fragments from chapter to chapter. It is, however solidly well written and contains interesting facts, some serious, some sad and some amusing. For example:

“Farmers are marvellously innovative when it comes to avoiding waste, and Aubrey’s ancestors were no exception. Thus when a giant cask of homemade cider was spoiled when air leaked into it, Aubrey’s father fed the forty five gallons, little by little to his pigs. Each time the pigs emptied the trough they very quickly became completely stupefied and fell asleep until their next feed. “this went on for six weeks, and for the whole time those pigs were completely drunk, said Aubrey with a grin. But the pigs grew so quickly on this diet that my father contacted a Horsham brewer and bought spoiled beer from him regularly.”

Interesting modern parallel perhaps that pigs on a large estate-farm nearby are fed on out-of-date food from a big supermarket chain to which they are contracted to supply bacon, pork and ham. So the pigs end up eating prawn cocktail crisps and other products (that quite frankly would still be edible for humans) because of a date stamp and regulations.

Digression over; where looks like a good place to stop between here and the Cornish coast?


3 responses to this post.

  1. Looking at the NT handbook, Clevedon court and Tintesfield jump out. (I haven’t been to either!) If you were going to Scotland, I’d recommend Sizergh Castle, which we visited recently Have a good trip! Sue


    • Thanks for the suggestions; actually we were thinking Castle Drogo, but were there and past before I realised it.
      In fact we stopped off – slight detour – at Lydford Gorge, which was marvellous: quiet, good stretch of the legs on the walk around and tasty tea and cakes!


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