Saturday 16th July 2016
It was the morning of my three-hour drive down to Cornwall and my four-day escape. I’d left later than planned, having made sure that everything was packed and prepared sandwiches for the day. Still, I hoped to be able to avoid the worst of the inevitable southbound traffic.
I chose Lanhydrock, with its grand house and estate, as a convenient ‘pit-stop’ to ease my journey and celebrate the end of all motorway driving, for at least three days.
As I left the M5 at Junction 31 for Exeter, I was witness to dangerous lorry driver infront. Twice, he swerved wildly out from the left-hand lane; narrowly missing a caravan on the first attempt and then, coming to an abrupt halt ahead of me.
My SatNav revealed that I had a good sixty-miles of road to follow along the A30, which would translate to another hour of driving, on average. It seemed like a long way and, with a row of caravans occupying the first of only two lanes, it was likely to be a long journey…
First, traffic was bought to a standstill around thirty-to-forty miles in. So bad was this delay, I even switched my engine off. Once we got going and continued down the hill, I could see a trailer having been towed in to the layby – bearing the load of a boat but also, missing a wheel on its near side.
Another ten-miles on and yellow warning signs appeared, advising us of the possibility for delays, with the roadworks that lay ahead… Along with many other drivers, I ignored this, knowing that my destination was less than fifteen-minutes away…
Five-miles away from the point at which I would leave the A30, we came to another standstill. It was one of those situations where you feel obliged to keep your engine running (wasting fuel), as the queue doesn’t stop for more than a couple of minutes each time and drivers all around are edging forwards, bit by bit.
As I pulled in to the car park with a sense of delight, each car was greeted by an assistant and given directions on where to park. Clearly, this was a very busy day. I arrived at noon, close to one-hour later than intended.
Parking up, I was eager to make a quick dash to the toilets and return to retrieve my bag later. But I had parked next to the same car I’d been sat behind for the past half-hour or so and, has friendly as he was, he wasted no time in beginning to share his own account of the events and how his Toyota hybrid has average seventy miles-per-gallon on the drive over from Essex.
With my bag in tow, I made my walk in the direction of the visitor reception. Before that, there’s a café/restaurant, the toilet block, a play area for children, a plant shop and a place where you can rent and hire bikes to use around the estate.
Another queue was forming, in the way of people keen to move on and explore Lanhydrock’s house and wider estate. Being a National Trust member, I was able to pass through in an instant, with the swipe of my barcode. Staff were so vastly outnumbered that they didn’t have time to ask if I’d been before and so, I didn’t even receive the usual map of the estate.
Finding my way to the house was simple enough and large map is available to view from one side of the reception. My exploration begin amongst the gardens and surrounding the exterior of the house.
Fellow amateur photographers were in attendance and I had to wait patiently for my own shots at certain groups of plant and flower.
Having explored most of the gardens, I made my way in to the church, where a few people were sat patiently on their pews…
Though, I’m not sure whether they were trying to take everything in or just craving quiet and respite from the higher temperatures outside.
I could sense lunchtime rumbling from within and, before exploring any further outdoor space, I decided to head indoors.
My thirty-litre backpack was safely deposited among others, beneath cubby holes at the foot of the staircase, where a National Trust employee or volunteer was always in attendance. One woman referred to my backpack as being “big”, which I always find funny, knowing I would need something twice the size for travel and backpacking.
I never know quite what to do with myself inside these grand houses so, I always try and stick to taking photographs (something I do know) – with the flash turned off, of course.
I can’t really pretend to be an expert in ceramics or even architecture and I wouldn’t know what to say to a room attendant beyond ‘Hello’.
I rushed in to the kitchen when I saw this cake, ready to be served – unfortunately, it wasn’t the edible kind (and had probably been sat in the open air for some time).
Going back to the entrance for a moment, where I left my bag for safekeeping; I remember that I was also given a guide to follow around the house interior. This laminated sheet of paper tells you which rooms to visit and in which order.
I thought this was a great idea and the first time I’d seen anything like it at a National Trust property. There’s less of a risk of you getting lost, accidentally treading over your former footsteps and you’ll less likely to miss anything. It could also mean that uncharacteristic paper arrows become less frequent on the walls and doorways – although, I did witness one family being shooed out from behind a door marked as ‘Private’.
There were several rooms that, in a more-confined, modern home would be refined to one, known as the kitchen (the dairy and bakery would be two examples). It was in one of these “kitchens” that I noticed the vertical plate rack, with dowels being used as dividers. I took an interest in this because I’m currently thinking of how I could store my own plates with less clatter, where they’re currently stacked on top of my fridge.
Speaking of fridges:
The original model of this house was made from wood.
Chopping boards were far more simplistic than the blocks of end-grain that many of us woodworkers aspire to today. Here, we have two boards (each no more than 6in/150mm wide), butted together. Each end of the board was reinforced with a spline, which would’ve further reinforced that joint and, presumably, also gone some way towards keeping the board flat.
There was a rather substantial construction of these cabinet doors, where extra timber had been planted on the inside – presumably, to keep ingredients air-tight, inside. There was no shame in using nails, in those days!
I’m not sure what this large wooden contraption was used for, in the “meat room”. With chains and sitting on the inside of the door, it could have been used as a knocker… But, if my memory’s correct then, that door led to the outside. It seems more likely, to me, that it had something to do with working the meat.
That is what you call a proper egg box!
Other non-edible delicacies were on display in further rooms.
After which, I left the food and sense of salivation behind, to continue up to the first floor.
Is it obligatory that every National Trust home has a snooker table?
Obelisks are another sight and feature that occurs more occasionally. Although, this one is on far less of a scale than the ones you can see at Kingston Lacy, over in Dorset.
I don’t think this was called the “Red Rum”.
That moment when you catch yourself in the mirror and realise you’ve aged… And swapped gender.
There was a room where you could leave your own words on pieces of slate.
At the viewing point for this room, the couple next to me exclaimed how this space was very much like their own bedroom.
Before making my way back downstairs to retrieve my bag, I paid a visit to the long gallery.
For me, this space was reminiscent of my visit to Lyme Park in September.
Here, at Lanhydrock, the lime and plaster ceiling required far more than a momentary glance.
I read signs that it had never been painted and they had no intention to do so, in spite of the fact people often comment on the ‘discolouration’, which is simply the ageing of lime. There’s a great risk that the extra weight of all and any paint could cause this delicate structure to collapse. A great tragedy, that would be.
My tour of the house soon ended, to the tune of one visitor taking the opportunity to dazzle us with his piano playing talents.
I took a quick glance around at the nearest eating area and it was packed with people. So, I set off on foot, down the long driveway and in search of a resting place – perhaps I’d also find that viewpoint that was highlighted on the map.
I reached gates at the far eastern end of the drive where I came to this gatehouse, which appears to be a private residence (at least, there’s no means of public access or invitation).
Dolls were on display in each of the upper windows.
From here, I followed a woodland path north along the edge of the estate before turning west to climb fields, where I would find my seat upon a wooden hurdle used for horse trials.
I’d spent a couple of hours here, had something to eat and, although I know I probably missed out on a couple of features, I was keen to press on with the final ninety-minutes of my drive to the campsite. I did not see “The Man From Essex” and his car had left the car park, far ahead of mine. Nearby, I did notice a car with a Bristol phone number on the back, which I always find pleasing, in these places not exactly close to home.
I’d eaten breakfast that morning, had home-made sandwiches for lunch and it was only after I arrived at the campsite and pitched up that I found my stove wasn’t working… Forgoing a cup of tea, I would head out for a fish and chips takeaway that evening.
Was it the ideal way to prepare for a coastal walk the next morning?