Five days in and it’s official, the heatwave has broken. Rain has arrived and it’s here to stay. If we’re to explore Stourhead, a National Trust favourite, it’s going to have to be in the rain.
Stourhead is a superb example of money spent well, with style and grace. Built in the early 1700s by Hoare family, the manor is a veritable treasure trove of art, rare manuscripts, books and Chippendale furniture. But that’s not the best part: the gardens are glorious with Italianate structures, formal plantings and a central lake.
It’s our third visit here, being a convenient stopping point in our journey towards France, especially useful as we can stay on site.
The rain has kept people away and so we have the gardens to ourselves – that’s worth the rain alone.
It’s added an ethereal mist to the view, but this is not entirely a bad thing. Also absent are the creatures who usually frolic here, but we do see a squirrel on arrival, flashing through the rain.
Stupidly, I forgot my nuts and say so out loud. I’m pretty such he sent a memo on squirrel intranet, outing said lack of nuts, as he’s the only one we see all day.
The rain eventually drives us indoors to the manor.
Whilst each of the rooms are impressively grand, the library is by far my favourite.
My idea of heaven would be bring left alone in here, for let’s say, a year or two. Just to explore, read everything I could get my hands on and marvel at it all. There are endless travel books, many 2 – 3 feet tall, with painted representations of each of the most beautiful sights of the European countries and key cities – the Hoares were keen travellers. And then there are these divine books, detailing Parisienne highlights from the Belle Epoque era. They’d alone take a week to become lost in.
Incredibly, all these treasures were saved from a great fire in 1902, when the servants took it upon themselves to save as much as they could, even after their upper floor residences had been razed. That’s dedication. Had it not been for their quick action, all this would have been lost.
We have a late lunch in the village then enjoy the other great attraction of Stourhead, its farm shop.
It’s another treasure trove, but this one is produce driven – farm house cheeses, local smallgoods and vegetables small batch chutneys and preserves and homemade cakes. Delightful.
The best steaks we’ve had in the UK have come from two places, and this is one of them. The other from a tiny farmers market in Scotland.
Stocked up with goodies, and the rain still falling in a steady pace, there’s nothing left to do except to curl up with a book and let the weather run its course. I’ve two on the go – Sarah Mullican’s “How to be Champion” a semi autobiographical course through her life and the lessons she’s learnt among the way, couched in her special brand of caustic humour. The other is Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”, made all the more poignant by his recent suicide. His passion for food shines though, but when his self destructive nature becomes too much for me, it’s Sarah who makes me laugh again. I wonder what it is, that so often mixes artist genius with a self destructive streak. I see it so often in musicians, artists and actors. The doors in the mind that open to genius, they have demons behind them.
Early evening sees me on the hunt for creatures. Last year I saw a hare here and endless bunnies, but despite a series of laps around the surrounding fields at various points in time, there are none. I’ve made a deal with Chris that if I manage to catch anything furry, I’m allowed to keep it. I’m going to have to up my game. A wee pocket size bunny friend, that’s what’s needed.
It’s a bit of a lost day, trapped indoors for much of it. Snapchat amuses me for a while. I do rather fancy this bunny filter I added to Sarah’s book cover. I’m not sure her publisher would appreciate it, but I’d bet she’d love it.
PS: Driven off by rain, my pictures don’t really do Stourhead justice. I do have other posts on it with better and more extensive photos – they should come up on the search function of you feel so inclined.