Sunday, June 15, 2014

Have car will travel

While we have the boat moored on the outskirts of London for maintenance and renovation we have decided to hire a car, join the National Trust and see sites that we wouldn't normally see from either a canal or a river. The National Trust membership entitles you to visit any number of stately homes managed by the National Trust as many times as you like throughout the year. It also enables you to visit the parks attached to the stately homes, outside of normal hours in many cases. Well worth the money when you consider that, as a couple, you can visit 4 homes and you have paid for your membership.

Polesden Lacey
Polesden Lacey Park
This time we have visited a variety of houses each offering something different. There is also the opportunity to go on a guided tour or hire an audio guide for an individualised tour that allows you to learn more about artefacts throughout the house. This is particularly useful if you are on your own, allowing you to wander at will and take your time.
This is a delicious house...' remarked Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother on her honeymoon at  Polesden Lacey. This country retreat has glorious views across the rolling Surrey Hills and acres of countryside.  It was home to famous Edwardian hostess Mrs Greville, who entertained royalty and the celebrities of her time.

Osterley Park Gardens
Relaxing in the sun at Osterley
Osterley Park is another house that we visited recently. Osterley was created in the late 18th century by architect and designer Robert Adam for the Child family (of banking and East India Company fame) to entertain and impress their friends and clients. It was a glorious day and so a little sunbathing was required! The beauty of many of these houses is that they frequently have special activities or art displays so that you can visit them several times and have a different experience each time.
Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor
We then went to three houses in the Chiltern Hills in the High Wycombe/Aylesbury area - West Wycombe Park and Village, Hughenden Manor and Waddesdon Manor. Waddeson Manor is probably the most impressive in both the gardens and the art displays in the house.  The house itself isn't that old and was designed by Rothschild's architect after several visits to the Loire valley. There are some aspects of this house that remind me of Chambord and also Chenonceau Chateaux near Amboise in the Loire. There is also a private cellar, stables,  immense parklands and gardens.
The aviary at Waddesdon
Artwork in the Park at Waddesdon
Beautiful walks at Waddesdon

Hughenden Manor
Bunker chart room at Hughendon

At Hughenden we had a small private tour and were told about the secret history of Hughenden during the second World War. Of course the most important person to live here was the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. It is these small guided tours that I find really interesting as they quite often give more detail than you can find on the official guide books.
Rear of West Wycombe
Lake at West Wycombe
West Wycombe Park  is set in 45 acres of landscaped park adjacent to West Wycombe village. The manor has been in the Dashwood family for over 300 years. They still live in the house but during summer open the house to tourists while they live on the upper floors. The house has been featured in a few period films and one of the rooms has been used for Downton Abbey. As you walk through the downstairs entertaining rooms there are family photos so you really feel like you're in someone's home. While other historic homes have been decorated in the period they were built in with many fine antiques, they lack a sense of being lived in. West Wycombe is, therefore, different in that respect.


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