6 March 2013. A beautiful Spring day, and our first National Trust visit of the year. Temperature: about 13C. Destination: Charlecote Park, Warwickshire.
Fast forward to 16 December 2015, and we visited Charlecote for a second time, to experience a Victorian Christmas, circa 1842.
Temperature: A balmy 14C! Although in contrast to our first visit, it was generally overcast with occasional—but very welcome—breaks in the cloud for the sun to peek through. This is what the BBC had to report about the weather yesterday.
And what better evidence that it was a balmy day—in fact, a balmy month to date. The weather has been so mild that plants such as snowdrop that we’d expect to see in flower by the end of January were already blooming yesterday at Charlecote.
Not only snowdrops, but also the primulas and daisies that had been planted in the parterre on the west side of the house, alongside the River Avon, were coming into bloom. I guess these had been planted out to provide some Spring colour for next March or so.
It’s about a 300 m walk from the car park to the Gatehouse (3 on the map below) and the house itself, down a long drive. Charlecote has several herds of fallow deer, and we were fortunate that a large herd was grazing quite close to the house in the Front Park (16). Several of the bucks had impressive sets of antlers.
Since the house did not open until noon, we planned a walk in the park, taking in part of the West Park (13), the Cascade (11) where the River Dene meets the Avon, and views of the house from the Paddock (10) that were quite spectacular yesterday as the sun came out and highlighted the lovely red brick against a glowering sky to the north.
Although it was a little boggy underfoot in places, we enjoyed the walk, eventually made it all the way round the lake between the Front Park and Hill Park (18). ‘Capability Brown‘ made his mark here at Charlecote, beginning in 1757.
We decided to tour the house (or the parts that were open to the public yesterday) before having lunch. Everywhere was festively decorated. The table in the Dining Room was laid out for an 1842 Christmas feast.
Then we headed for the Orangery Restaurant for something to eat—the only downside to our visit. The sandwiches we bought were fine, but the service left much to be desired. I think it was a question of ‘too many cooks’ behind the counter, staff tripping over each other, difficult customers, and a failure of planning in terms of what food would be available. I saw a number of customers disappointed because their chosen meal was no longer available. And this was about 1 pm. So it took around 30 minutes to queue up and buy our lunch and there were no more than 10 people ahead of us in the queue. I appreciate that many of the staff at National Trust properties are volunteers. I’m not sure what the situation regarding their restaurants. But clearly the staff were overwhelmed.
Nevertheless, we didn’t let this affect our day out. It was great to be out and about, especially since both of us have been fighting nasty colds and chesty coughs for over a month and haven’t felt like stirring outside at all. And, with the festive decorations, it felt good to be getting into the spirit of the season. At last!