2017 Day Eighty Two

When they said three days of rain, they weren’t kidding: the morning greets us with a stubborn drizzle that progressively worsens.  We had great plans to visit Salisbury but our arch enemy, parking, thwarts us.  The  plan was sound, use the park and ride to enjoy, if somewhat wet, sightseeing, but when we get there, a height barrier stops us cold.  It’s the first we’ve seen on a park and ride service.  All other attempts fail: Salisbury is in gridlock with the rain.  Sigh.  At least we got to drive past Stonehenge and have a giggle at the water logged tourists trudging the perimeter. You’re really at the mercy of the weather when you travel.

We have to be in Portsmouth tomorrow morning, to see if we can finally resolve a nagging issue with the fridge, now running, but not as cold as it could be.  Consequently, we’re not quite as free to roam the country as we normally would be.  It’s this that determines the afternoon, a visit to the National Trust Mottisfont estate.  It’s such a beautiful place: I wish we’d made it our first choice and not wasted the morning in traffic.  

Mottisfont has a history dating back  more than a 1,000 years.  It’s named for the natural spring (font), which was a meeting place (mott).  The spring is still here, a brilliant turquoise, fed by a clear chalk stream  that runs through the property.

In the 1200s an Abbey was built on the site.  Barely surviving the ravages of the plague in the 1300s, it, like so many other religious institutions, it ran foul Henry VIII when in his quest for divorce, he seized Mottisfont in the name of the crown, sold the assets, then gave the property to one of his supporters.  He really was a piece of work, egotistical to the extreme.  I’ve just finished reading a perspective on each of his wives and the nicest thing I can say about him is that he could have benefited with a good solid beating. Regularly.

In the 1800s, the Abbey was remodelled, essentially inserting a manor home between two remaining Abbey wings.  When passing these sections on the inside, the joins are still visible. 

 The incarnations Mottisfont we see today is the result of its last owner, Maud Russell, who bought the property in the 1930s and devoted herself to the garden over the next two decades.  

The results are beautiful: intensly perfumed old English roses, topiary and expansive swathes of perfect lawn, highlighted by sculptures and framed by trees.

Her diaries have recently been published, and excerpts of these are cleverly displayed throughout the house, giving an insight into life during this time.

It’s the chalk stream though, that’s the absolute highlight.  

Running peacefully under ancient trees, it’s flanked by a path either side and a thatched fishing hut by a bridge crossing. 

 It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful of contemplative place. 

 The stream is full of spotted brown trout, too many to count, elegant white swans and cheeky little ducks. 

 I’m sure, that with all those fish, there are otters here.  If my time was my own, I’d happily sit here for days, until I saw one.