Painted in the style of Rebecca

I’m never sure whether I actually like black pudding or not. I really only ever eat it at B&Bs. There is generally an option of black pudding with the full English breakfast. I will usually have it once per two day stay. I remain undecided.

Mirinda asked me if it was the idea or the taste. Obviously I find the idea quite disgusting and not in the least tempting. The taste, on the other hand, is the bit I’m not sure of.

The main problem is it’s dominance. It’s the last taste in your mouth when you leave the breakfast table. This is what really puts me off. I’d much prefer egg or bacon.

The fried eggs at Somerville House are pretty damn good. Free range and fried to perfection. I’d come back to stay just for the fried eggs.

Something that confused me over breakfast today was the six slice toast rack. I should clarify somewhat…the rack of which I speak isn’t designed for an entire slice of toast but for a full slice cut in half. I’m therefore concerned about what happens to the leftover slice.

Unless you only supply people with two slices each, there’s always going to be a slice spare. If you get two breakfast orders at once, that’s fine but how often would that happen? Such is the stuff in my head today. While my taste-buds are stuffed up with black pudding.

Linda, on the other hand, was more than happy to take us on a merry trip around the wonderful Herefordshire countryside, taking in the sights of the black and white villages. They are called black and white villages because they have buildings in them which are very old and are painted black and white. Buildings like this:

Houses that look like they should have fallen over 150 years ago

They are in a village called Eardisland which has been voted, on a couple of occasions, the prettiest village in Herefordshire. And it is pretty. It sits on the River Arrow with an idyllic view looking back from the bridge. The perfect little, squat church, a dovecot for a community shop…it’s got everything.

It even has it’s own green man alternative – a green woman. She lives inside a hollow yew tree in the churchyard and only comes out if you wave chocolate around the hole in the trunk. I was very lucky to capture this shot.

It's chilly in that yew!

The church of St Mary the Virgin was completely renovated in 1864 at a cost of £2,000. Oh, how things have changed! They recently renovated it again and it cost millions! When you walk into the little church, it feels unfinished. That’s not to say it’s not pleasant.

Originally a Saxon church stood on the site but the bulk of it comes from after the 15th century. The squat little tower was a replacement for the original which collapsed in 1728. They had to wait until 1760 for the one they have now.

By far the most exciting thing in Eardisland (as far as we were concerned) was the AA box. I’ve heard about them and even seen them on TV but this is the first time I’ve actually gone up to one and opened the door. Apparently it used to be a garden decoration (after being decommissioned by the AA) until a nice chap renovated it and put it up for everyone to admire.

Caught with a flat? Well, how about that!

The publican at the Swan Inn is convinced that Randy Fox is the best ale they have ever served. I think he needs to get more beer at his pub. The Randy Fox was OK but not a patch on other beers I’ve had in Herefordshire.

In fact, I think he was dredging the sludge at the bottom of the barrel for the pint I had. Though that didn’t stop me drinking it of course.

The Swan Inn is one of those pubs where the men of the village congregate on a Sunday while their wives work away in the kitchen over the Sunday roast. They all stood in a strange egg shaped circle near the bar, discussing their various lunches waiting for them after their drinks. From vegetarian lasagne to roast chicken, there was a fair sampling of food but, if you ask me, the couple tucking into the roast lamb in the corner had the best idea.

We had dashed into the Swan Inn to avoid the rain which suddenly started. We left as the clouds started moving away and the sun started making an appearance. That’s not to say it was anything like warm in it. The temperature didn’t get much above 6° in the wind.

We’d only stopped off at Eardisland on the way to Berrington Hall, upsetting Linda somewhat with a change of destination halfway through her navigation.

Berrington Hall, a National Trust property, is situated in a glorious Capability Brown landscape. It reminded me a little of Petworth with the water and the gently rolling fields. The only difference was the sheep instead of the deer. In fact, the deer were in the tea room.

Watching the diners

The present house dates to around 1780. A city gent called Thomas Harley, decided he’d love to retire to the Herefordshire countryside. He purchased Berrington from the Cornewall family, hired Capability to do a bit of gardening and took advantage of the services of Brown’s brother-in-law, Henry Holland, to design him a house.

Harley had been a government contractor and part-time politician. He’d made his fortune as a banker. How unusual is that? He retired at 40 to his new house.

Berrington is the first National Trust property I have ever visited where you are allowed to take photographs inside the house as long as you do not use a flash. While I think this is a great idea, I do wonder how many people actually obey the ‘no-flash’ rule. Letting people take pictures is always going to risk having flashes going off.

The problem with flash photography (apart from the fact that it annoys other visitors) is how excessive light can destroy colour in paintings, tapestries, wallpaper, etc. I’d rather have no photography than risk losing some of these treasures.

However…it felt quite a treat to be able to take photographs, so I took some. Here’s the staircase in the middle of the house.

Designed by Holland, photographed by Gaz

The thing about Berrington is how the servants were kept separate from the owners and guests. Hidden within the building is a cold, bare staircase for the servants. There are unmarked doors through which they would move into the house, delivering food and drink, firewood and newspapers. I’m sure they had to deliver things without being seen, as if by magic.

Walking down this hidden, cold staircase you are taken to the servants hall. It’s cold and dark, nothing like the warmth and prettiness upstairs. People visiting this house may say they’d like to live there – it is very warm and comfortable – but I bet it wouldn’t be as a servant.

But enough social injustice…the rooms are beautifully decorated and well worth a visit. Particularly the ceilings which are generally painted in the style of Biagio Rebecca (1735-1808) who everyone was copying at the time. While he was born in Rome, Biagio did most of his stuff in England, painting mythological scenes and generally creating a trend.

After Berrington, we took a quick drive up to Ludlow for a bit of a revisit before returning to the B&B.

What started off as a dismal, miserable day, improved no end and was thoroughly enjoyable.

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One Response to Painted in the style of Rebecca

  1. mum cook says:

    What a great town so full of history. Love the Black and White house. love mum

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