|Sunay 16 May 2010|
I once again awoke to the smell of bacon and we wandered down to the
breakfast room where I indulged once more in a full English while Mirinda
decided to go all continental with croissants. She regretted her decision
as they tasted like cardboard. Her assumption was that they came, frozen
in boxes and the boxes had somehow infiltrated the pastry.
And so, off to Castle Combe. It is advertised as the prettiest village
in England. We've seen a few of these. Actually Shere, not far from
us, is also the prettiest village in England. The day was gloomy so
we hoped the prettiness would cheer it up a bit. We parked in the carpark,
which already had a big coach in it, and started to walk down the road.
Yes, road. Not a footpath, not through a stile or two but down a tarmac
road. We dodged a few cars as the road plunged down.
We walked by the seat dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II in 1977 on the
occasion of her jubilee. It was once a stone pen used for keeping stray
animals in which the owners would have to pay for their release. It
is an odd place for a seat. Apart from being on the side of the road
without a footpath, cars whizzing by, it faces the opposite side of
a sunken lane. Not a view of by any stretch of the imagination. Unperturbed,
we continued down the hill.
We reached the museum (closed most of the time) and Mirinda asked how
long before we found this prettiest village in England. Looking ahead,
it was obvious how much further we'd have to walk. It needs to be understood
at this point that Mirinda is not that keen on hills. Slight gradients
up rolling heathland are fine, the hill in Farnham Park is also ok.
Steep roads diving into dark wooded lanes is generally not ok. The problem
is not going down but the need to retrace the route back up. It was
at a point, a few yards passed the museum (not open very often and once
a blacksmith's shop, telephone exchange and school, when I assume it
was open more often) that the decision was made to walk back to the
We drove through the prettiest village in England. It is quite pretty.
All thatch and Cotswold stone. We also spotted the tourists who were
presumably from the coach. They were Japanese. A lot of Japanese. They
roamed the village looking like sole, bemused visitors to and English
version of Australiana Village.
Park is a wonderfully situated manor house, set in a valley, grassy
hills rising on all sides, tree lined avenues radiating out from it.
Like Petworth, you walk along the drive and suddenly you see the house.
It is a wonderful view down a steep valley, the Cotswold stone shining
on the damp, cloudy day. I also forgot to mention that the weather has
been a bit see saw-ish. Sometimes gloomy, sometimes sunny, occasionally
As we strolled down to the house (secure in the knowledge that there
is a bus to take you back to the car park if your legs so desire it)
we wondered whether some great landscape gardener like Capability Brown
had had a hand in the construction of the views. It looked, for all
the world as if man had moulded the hills and vistas but, no, apparently
not. At least not as far as the guidebook is concerned. It seems the
only architects of this landscape (ignoring the trees which were obviously
planted by someone) were the deer. Dyrham, you see, means 'an enclosed
valley frequented by deer' in Old English.
Regular readers will know how we feel about stately homes built on
the back of piracy or the slave trade or by the wealthy not paying the
masons and carpenters who did all the work. Sadly, whenever we visit
a stately home, this is foremost in our minds. Dyrham is different.
It was built by a civil servant. A dull and boring man called Blathwayt.
I say 'dull and boring' because he didn't really aspire to anything
great. He was, however, not stupid.
He married a woman called Mary Wynter in 1686. Mary's dad whose memorial
sits large in the church next to the house, owned a tumble down Tudor
house on the present site. Blathwayt inherited it on his death and the
subsequent death of Mary and he transformed it to the house that stands
Down through the ages, a succession of Blathwayts have happily lived
at Dyrham making very little difference to the original building. This
is a good thing as we now have an excellent example of a Dutch influenced
17th century manor house, almost perfectly preserved.
We had to wear plastic overshoes as we wandered through the house due
to the inclement weather. They were not particularly fetching but, as
everyone was wearing them and they were all green, no-one looked any
different to anyone else so we soon forgot we were wearing them at all.
Strange how that happens.
We wandered around the various stately rooms that were not quite as
stately as the normal run-of-the-mill stately rooms are, gradually making
our way back to the entrance, grasping our talking sticks as we went,
listening intently to little tidbits of information on the wonderfully
prosaic Blathwayt family.
Our next visit
was to the church of St Peter which stands next to the house. It predates
the present house and possibly the Tudor house which preceded it. Bits
of it date from about 1280. Even the tower was built in 1420, before
the Tudor building.
There is an amazing 400 year old brass, which is the churches most
prized possession. It is of Sir Morys Russell and his wife and is safely
ensconced beneath a plastic cover. This makes it difficult to photograph.
Sadly. Personally I prefer the seemingly winged skull at the foot of
the tomb of the Wynters. Deliciously ghoulish and easier to photograph!
We had decided to lunch at the tearoom but, one look inside at the
heaving masses of tourists, decided us against this. Hopping on the
bus, we made our way back to Sidney then drove to Bath University so
that I could see where Mirinda has been hanging out for the past (and
We wandered the grounds, taking in the vast amounts of green and trees
spreading throughout. Apparently, when the idea of a university in Bath
was mooted, the city fathers said it had to be far enough away that
it couldn't be seen from the city. When the present site of Clavendon
Down was decided upon, the city fathers once more stepped in and said
big trees would need to be grown around the edge of the university in
order to hide it away. What this means is that, not only is it well
hidden from view but it also has lots of green spaces. Thank you, city
fathers of Bath!
After last night, we decided to eat at the Moon and Sixpence, a restaurant not far from Yo! Sushi, which looked nice. We were told there'd be a wait of 15 minutes. A look around the restaurant showed many empty tables. It was suggested we wait in the bar. The back door is by the bar. We walked out the back door and decided to once more play at Yo! Sushi. We love that sushi!