Any place that’s home to a herd of spotted fallow deer is going to right to the top of the list of places I want to see. Himself has found Dyrham Park amongst the National Trust properties, all it takes is a look at their cover shot to convince me – let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! Spots aplenty.
If you love a grand manor home or beautiful unspoilt landscapes, one of the best investments you can make when travelling through the UK is a National Trust membership. It affords you free entry to their hundreds of properties, and if you’re Australian and a National Trust member there, you have reciprocal rights in the UK. It’s fabulously good value. On our first motorhome adventure, we used the National Trust map to guide us around the UK – it was quite magical.
Dyrham Park is enormous – the sat nav accidentally takes us to the back of the property and it takes quite a while to drive around – 274 acres of gardens and parkland surround an 17th century house. It takes a good 15 minutes to walk the main drive, once we find the entrance. But what a rewarding walk it turns out to be.
There were two ways to the house – the 15 minute walk, or a woodland, 40 minute walk, allegedly, better for spotting deer. We take the short walk, saving the long one for the way back, but we’re rewarded with a herd of boys, right next to the path.
Much happiness. I take many, many photos – we even see one stand on his hind legs to scratch his antlers against a branch.
With their Disney spots, caramel and white coats, these are very pretty boys indeed. It’s the barest vestige of regard for personal safety that stops me from inching in amongst them. As it is, we’re barely metres away. I eventually tear myself away to tour the gardens:
and pop into the cafe for a cheese scone for me, a ploughman’s lunch for Himself. I didn’t take photos, but both were excellent. Most of the produce is local, and we read the cafe has won an award recently – well deserved too.
After lunch, entering through an ancient doorway, we walk the Lost Terraces, painstakingly carved into the adjacent hillside.
We only see a fraction of the terraces as much of the area is fenced off to keep people and cattle out whilst the Trust vaccinates the local badger population against tuberculosis.
The espaliered pears (pictured above) came from cuttings from ancient plantings here. There’s an amusing extract from an invoice, from 1696, stating “wire Lettice to prevent ye Rabbetts coming down ye stepps at both ends of ye Long Terras”. I can just picture their disappointed little faces when that wire lattice went up.
The lower terrace is adjacent to the 13th century St Peter’s church, where William Blathwayt married Mary Wynter, acquiring Dyrham Park in the process. Much of the family is buried here too.
Finally, we tour the house, accompanied by the crisp notes of a harpsichord.
Dyrham was built over the site of a previous manor house and despite undergoing a major restoration in 2014 and 2015, it’s still very much a work in progress, with extensive restoration works in progress. Unusually, the house is home to a collection of Dutch Masters, so whilst much of it is unfurnished, the art is very fine indeed.
There’s a fascinating finish in one of the rooms – painted embossed leather bought from another property to be installed here.
The blue vases below are Delft, tulip vases, to showcase the blooms to best advantage.
The kitchen is a copper delight.
Eventually, we turn for the walk back, agreeing that the short, steep walk back is probably the best option, having already been lucky to see “the boys” on the way in. But wouldn’t you know it…they’re still there, allowing us even closer. It’s official, I’m in deer bliss.