National Trust Properties 2019
I can't believe that it's that time of year again when I look back at the National Trust properties that I have visited in the previous year. Where has that year gone?
I started 2019 with a trip to the south coast of England and as usual I looked for National Trust properties that I could visit during my travels. It was a cold, wet and windy February when I made the trip, but thankfully on the days that I visited two of the National Trust's wonderful properties, the wind and rain held off long enough for me to enjoy two very pleasant visits.
My first stop was at Nymans, one of the National Trust's premier gardens. These are beautiful and extensive late 19th century gardens, located just east of the village of Handcross in West Sussex. I could very happily have spent much longer here than I did, and would have done so, had it not been for the inclement weather. The house, which was sadly destroyed by fire in 1947, and gardens were owned by the Messel family until the National Trust took over in 1953. Although in ruins, the house still dominates the garden and is a prominent and imposing feature in its own right.
My second visit on this trip was to Wakehurst Place, close to Haywards Heath, and not a million miles away from Nymans. Wakehurst is the country Estate of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. There are very interesting gardens to be found here and delightful wetland, woodland and nature reserve. But what sets Wakehurst apart from other country estates is the amazing seed collection housed in The Millennium Seed Bank, the largest seed collection in the world. There is some very impressive and important work being carried out here, and the displays are fascinating and very informative.
March turned out to be somewhat disappointing. Whilst in the Barking area of London, I had hoped to visit at least one National Trust property. However, on the designated day of my visit, none were open, which just illustrates the importance of forward planning! I did, however, get to look around the gardens of Eastbury Manor, although officially closed for a private function, the gentleman in charge very kindly allowed my wife and I to view the gardens, but not the Manor on this occasion. Eastbury Manor is an Elizabethan Gentry house built by Clement Sysley and is a magnificent building. The gardens, although small, are delightful and very peaceful. I look forward to returning to explore Eastbury Manor more fully in the near future.
May saw me visiting the Luton and Bedford area. Just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of a vibrant Luton, sits the modest and pleasingly tranquil Shaw's Corner. Situated in Ayot St Lawrence, Shaw's Corner was the rural home of George Bernard Shaw. A very evocative place to visit, with much of interest, particularly to readers of Shaw's works. The house remains very much as it was in Shaw's day, and the small but very interesting garden still houses Shaw's writing hut, which can be found in a delightful, peaceful, secluded and thought provoking spot among the trees at the bottom of the garden.
WILLINGTON DOVECOTE & STABLES
My second visit on this trip was to Willington Dovecote and Stables, close to Bedford. These are perfectly preserved examples of 16th century workmanship, with the Dovecote very much still in use. John Gostwick had these built, along with the nearby church, as part of his large Tudor estate. It is likely that some of the building materials came from old monastic sites. There is ample parking on the site, and it is a lovely, quiet, picturesque setting for a picnic.
The National Trust is a fantastic organisation, looking after these historic buildings and gardens and ensuring they are there for future generations to enjoy. I urge readers of this blog to join if they can, or at least try to visit one or two of these wonderful properties. They make for a wonderful day out and you won't be disappointed.
For more details, visit the National Trust website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk
I can't wait to see what other National Trust delights 2020 will have in store for me.