We went to a bunch of villages in East Anglia that were picturesque but one was almost too much to be real. I have been to Lavenham before – I went in the early 90s when visiting a friend who was living in the area at the time – but I have to admit I didn’t recall much about it and when we got there, I wondered how I could have forgotten. It seems that the entire village is made up of buildings that were constructed by a film set designer.
Half timbered building abound. They are all really old but well maintained. Multiple colors are used to decorate the walls which I assume are probably made of some vintage materials. Building construction in those days used to use a lot of straw mixed with “binding agents” of a less than delightful origin. You don’t know that once they are done and I assume any more modern repairs make use of more pleasant ingredients. The age of the buildings also shows in the way that there doesn’t appear to be a right angle in the place. Everything is at odd angles. It really is something special.
It is not hard to understand why tourists will visit the place. It is just what someone from overseas would imagine an English village to be. I certainly won’t so easily forget it this time. Not sure how I did before!
Imagine a stereotypical village in the Derbyshire Peak District – the sort of thing that might be snow covered on a Christmas card. The type of place that you think doesn’t really exist anymore other than in the minds of artists striving for some sort of tranquil setting for their work. Guess what – it does exist. Situated on the Chatsworth estate and right in the path of our hike is the village of Edensor. This is England so, of course, it isn’t pronounced the way it is spelt. It sounds more like Enzor.
As you walk down off the hills, you see the church spire in the distance so it isn’t hard to know where you are going. The village is small – a group of buildings off the main road through the estate. It appears to be a combination of converted large estate buildings and houses for the estate workers. Everything is built from stone and the lawns and roadsides are all beautifully maintained. I don’t know whether there are rules about how well you have to keep your garden or if it is just social pressure that does the trick but the place is immaculate.
We came in alongside the churchyard and walked down past some lovely houses. On one side appeared to be a converted stable block which was not accessible to the general public and on the other was a tea room but we did not check that out. This was just somewhere we were walking through en route to the main house at Chatsworth. I imagine on a sunny summer day Edensor is packed with people visiting. A slightly cloudy September makes for a far more peaceful visit.
One thing that there is no shortage of in the UK is impressive country houses. As a result of the financial circumstances of many of the old families that owned these places, a lot have ended up in the hands of the National Trust. One of the most attractive estates is Stourhead in Wiltshire. This was not originally on our schedule during our UK trip but we had a change of heart regarding our original plan for the day and decided to head to Stourhead instead. We are still members of the National Trust so this was a freebie for us (if you excluded the amount spent over the years on membership!).
When we visit these estates, our focus is usually on the grounds rather than the houses themselves. While I am interested in the external views of the house, the interiors are often a bit repetitive and something I will only bother with if I have plenty of time and there is something special about the insides. Normally, I am far happier walking around the grounds. In Stourhead’s case, the grounds are quite stunning. There are many buildings scattered around the estate, there are lakes, bridges, temples and a village within the estate including estate cottages and a pub. I imagine you could avoid ever having the leave if you were so inclined!
Visiting these places in September is a good idea. The weather is still pretty nice but the holidays are over and so the number of people attending has significantly dropped. I think it is fair to say we were amongst the youngest people there! If we lived closer, I would certainly enjoy visiting Stourhead at various different times of year. I imagine the fall colors will be impressive and winter would be very nice to see.
Continuing our UK trip, we were still in the New Forest and I wanted to visit Beaulieu. It is many years since I have been to Beaulieu. My grandparents took me there once and we went with the school on one occasion too. However, I wasn’t interested in visiting the motor museum on this occasion. Certainly, if I had a lot more time, I would have loved to take a look around but we didn’t have that much time. Instead, I wanted to see the village which, judging by some pictures I had seen online, looked like it was very picturesque.
First, though, I had to stay awake. As we drove there, I was feeling rather drowsy. Not a good state to be but hardly surprising given how long I had been awake. When we got the village, I put the seat back and had a nap for a few minutes. This was a big help. Nancy was tired but not able to nap so she checked out a tea shop while I closed my eyes.
We then took a walk around the village. It is by a river and is very pretty. Lots of small houses and shops combined with a big green area all alongside the estate of the Earl which now houses the motor museum. What I hadn’t realized is how much wildlife wanders around. Yes there were ducks and swans. I didn’t know that cows, horses and donkeys were loose in the area. The donkeys seem to like the shops and apparently walk in if they feel like it. The horses and cows were grazing on the more grassy areas but if they needed to get somewhere, they would walk up the street and trucks coming the other way would just have to wait. Could I come up with something more English for our first day back?