And just like that, the weather gods decide that summer is done. To celebrate their decision, they’ve sent us a 15 degree, properly rainy day. It makes for a later start, but it will take more than that to stop the day’s explorations.
Two wildlife sightings mark the morning: a teeny squirrel darts across the road to safety and a fancy pheasant scratching about on a verge. We don’t know it yet, but it’s an excellent portent of wildlife sightings yet to come. Squiz not quite quick enough on the camera though…
We’re spending the afternoon at another National Trust property, Petworth Estate, home to the largest and finest art collection held by the Trust. It’s possibly the largest estate we’ve been to over the years: on entry is a casual mention of the 5 miles of walks within the estate.
Petworth could best be described as palatial: it’s absolutely huge and we only see a small portion of the ground floor.
Built for the Earl of Northumberland, Petworth has been home to his descendants for over 900 years. The art collection in place today is the work of the 10th Earl, the 6th Duke of Sommerset and the 3rd and 4th Earls of Egremont, sourced between 1602 – 1837 including works from van Dyck, Turner (who was a frequent guest here), Gainsborough and Reynolds and over 100 marble sculptures.
Much of the ground floor is more remincent of an art museum than a home. Unique in the collection is the Molyneux Globe, made in 1592 it’s the oldest terrestrial English globe, thought to have been given to the 9th Earl by Sir Walter Raleigh.
Across the way from Petworth manor is a building of only slightly smaller proportions, the servants’ quarters, with extraordinary kitchens, store rooms and an excellent display showing the hierarchy of staff, their wages, responsibilities and photographs.
It took over 40 people to run the household, but these were some of the key posts:
The kitchens are enormous with seperate dairy, meat, grain, etc rooms and extend further to include an icehouse.
Also on display is an example of the oldest fridge in England, essentially a wooden cupboard, lined with lead and tiles with components for blocks of ice.
My favourite is the display of copper and intricate pastry moulds, some no larger than a marble. You can see the influence of the French chef of the time.
The rain has eased to a light drizzle by late afternoon, but nothing short of a downpour could keep me from dragging Chris to the Deer Park within the grounds, full of ancient chestnut and walnut trees.
We’ve encountered deer parks before and not even seen a whisker, but today our luck is in. At the top of a hill overlooking the lake, we can see a small herd in the distance, but better yet, on the way back to the manor, we spot a further two, much closer. They allow us relatively close, very shy, but also a little curious.
Much excitement from me, and playing hide and seek as they circle about us then backtrack though a wooded area.
I have to be dragged away as usual with threats of the gates closing on us and being trapped for the night. Not sure what the problem might be there, now that I have new friends to play with. Spotty loveliness.
Eventually Chris does manage to drag me off to much grumbling.
We spend the night nearby and take the opportunity to go out for dinner in a classic English pub: dressed Cornish crab for me, a chicken and bacon pie for he who dragged me away from deer.