Eeek! 130 days! No wonder I feel like we’ve been gone forever. Having completed our sojourn north to look at new toys, today we’re focused on our aim west.
The countryside is lushly verdant green, dotted with an occasional black faced sheep. I love how clean sheep are in the UK. Washed spotless after each rain, they’re a far cry from their poor, dust riddled Australian cousins.
We see evidence of flooding from the recent rains – that’s not a lake you see below.
It’s very much the pointy end of our timeline: by Friday week we need tick off travelling to Cornwall, wintering the motorhome, driving it into the new storage facility and driving all the way back to Heathrow to board a plane to Hong Kong. Somewhere in there, I need to summon and release my inner house elf to go on a cleaning and packing frenzy. It’s going to be a busy week.
But not today. Today we’re breaking our trip west to stop at Tyntesfield, a Victorian Gothic country house, home to the Gibbs family for four generations.
It was founded by William Gibb, born in 1790, the son of a Spanish cloth merchant. He made his fortune in, of all things, guano. Bird poo, for use as fertilizer – he was the sole licensee to import and distribute to Europe and North America. Trade was such that it made him the wealthiest untitled man in England. Sadly, it was at the expense of what amounted to virtually slave labour – the conditions on the Peruvian islands where the guano was sourced, were by all accounts, dreadful.
Gibbs purchased what was then Tynte house, along with several adjoining properties, extending the house to 23 main bedroom (43 including servants’ rooms), creating Tyntesfield, a working farm and grand estate. Even though the Trust sold off all bar the main property, it’s still enormous. The driveway extends for the better part of a mile then there’s another 15 minute walk in. Our way is lined with ancient trees
and a wide variety of holly – topiaried balls line the main entrance. Their Christmas red berries are well on their way.
The house we see today was extended by William’s heir, his oldest son Antony. Whilst his father’s last touch was the magnificent chapel, modelled on Sainte-Chapelle in Paris,
Antony extended the house to its current format.
Inside, the family’s European heritage is clear. It’s certainly “not British”.
Gloriously ornate, especially in carved wooden finishes, it’s quite different to a classic English manor house.
When the Trust entered the bidding war to buy the property in 2002, rumour has it that Madonna and Andrew Lloyd Webber were also in the ring.
No expense was spared here. There’s a boy’s room, complete with a heated billiard table, an automated score board (this was the 1800s remember) and a card nook.
Wood features heavily in furnishings and finishes – woodturning was a keen interest. There’s even a woodturning lathe in one room and a huge array of turning chisels.
We get a glimpse of “downstairs” through the eyes of the butler’s quarters.
But for me, the jewel is nestled in the grounds, complete with walled garden, an orangery (built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee) and grazing pastures.
It’s a garden you could lose yourself in. Armed with a picnic basket, a soft warm blanket, nuts for squirrels, a few carrots for Peter and his friends and a dozen books or so, you wouldn’t see me for days on end. I’m sure I’d find a pond to bathe in somewhere.
I’m finally dragged away. Himself calls “enough”.
We’re off for dinner at the nearby pub. I find out later that it was once owned by William Gibb, a teetotaler, he bought it so that he could control any “riotous behaviour”. The food is excellent. Himself has a very tasty porchetta roast,
I have classic cod fish and chips. Yum!