Monday, 12 November 2007

IP Address.03 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Third

In which we discover a Philosophy of Visiting, A Shugborough, some Persons Confused about the Date, a Splendid Stone Bridge and a Plashy River.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

One of the joys of this kind of holiday is the Sussing Out of the Possible Trips. Sure, everyone wants variety and interest and may have their own agendas, but at the same time it's self-limiting to some extent - after all we're in a historic building near Stafford, so activities like, say, scuba diving on a coral reef, or dancing drunkenly all night in a karaoke bar, are probably marginally less likely than outings involving, say, things owned by the National Trust, and/or a nice cup of tea. (Admittedly it's only ten minutes into Stafford town centre so maybe the karaoke is achievable. But you get my drift.)

If you then factor in one of us using a wheelchair and another who prefers to get around on four furry feet, and if you prefer to keep the group together as far as possible, then your options do seem to become somewhat fewer. You don't have to actually draw the Venn diagram to perceive that the intersection, that bit in the middle there, might not be exactly overcrowded.

What this boils down to is that this was The Holiday of Garden Visits. I mean, if you look at it, a garden visit is pretty near perfect for this kind of jolly. As long as it has some kind of access and the pooch is not totally unwelcome then you're in business. If it happens to have a nice café, and that café happens to have an outdoor bit, and the weather happens to be (perhaps atypically and unpatriotically) good, then you are cooking on gas. And so it was for us: very lucky with the weather, lots of gardens found in a nice leaflet, a few phone calls and hey presto!

You do tend to miss out a bit on certain dog- and/or wheelchair-unfriendly bits but it's amazing what a bit of compromise can achieve. I have toyed with the idea of trying to pass Daisy off as an assistance dog but I feel it could be tricky...

Meanwhile back at Ingestre we've decided that gardens are, like, where it's at, and off we go to Shugborough.

This was a fantastic day out at a truly excellent house. In order to avoid recounting the day in more-or-less realtime, here are some bullet points:

  • It's owned by the National Trust but run by the county council, and a very fine job they do too.
  • It's the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield, hence Patrick Lichfield the photographer. But you can read all that stuff on the website.
  • I quite like the house itself but others, including my Dear Wife Bless Her, think it's somewhat ugly. I think Coadstone comes into this somewhere but am not sure. Webbity website.
  • The estate is fantastically complete, unsundered, together, and other such adjectives. One of the council sites mentions it as "the UK's only complete working historic estate".
  • They do some pretty advanced boasting about this on a long series of signboards as you drive in. You can't blame them, it's terrific. So it's not just the house and parkland but loads of other stuff like the farm, mill, dairy, kitchen garden and the like...
  • ... and some splendid follies!
  • We parked in their clever, newish parking setup. Because masses of parking right by the house was ruining the look of the place, they moved it some distance away, created a new entrance building, and laid on accessible shuttles and varyingly accessible walks to connect it all back to the house. We judged this whole thing to be a monster success and a great way to approach the house without seeing it begirt with the fine products of Messrs Ford et al.
  • Just after the entrance thingy is a walled (kitchen?) garden thingy peopled with horny-handed sons and indeed daughters of toil doing gardenistic things. Signs warn you that they think it's 1805, so please don't be an *rse and ask them if they have an iPod (in effect).
  • The ones to whom we spoke did it very well and, if the conversation did threaten to stray into the undiscussable, coped with it well using probably-stock responses: "Oi wouldn't know nor not nuffin 'bout that, Zur, Oi've nevurr bin nor not nor foive moiles frum our Mam's front door Zur." OK so my accent seems to have slipped a little (funny when I am so good at the dramatic arts in general) but you get the drift.
  • Actually I think it would better if the 1805 people were allowed to react a bit more when some inevitable p*ll*ck starts baiting them on, I don't know, the internet, my dad's salary, Freud, nuclear weapons, cars, pole dancing, Ant and Dec. The staff should be allowed to start hitting the malicious anachronist with their historically-accurate 1805 shovels while shrieking "Witchcraft! Burn the witch!" Word would get round, I'm sure.
  • Eschewing the very-accessible tarmac route we chose the slightly-less accessible way across parkland. This, however, was bone-dry so actually it was pretty good, and a beautiful way to reach the house. We passed a rather gorgeous folly en route, too.

Erm what else? Ah yes:

  • Nice lunch in the splendid outdoor bit of the café.
  • Truly excellent wander round the grounds, which are beautiful.
  • Lots of very clever sculptures: insects, made out of bicycle parts. Brilliant. Hiding in the grass, up trees, all over the place.
  • More follies, including a Chinese house, a pretend ruin, and other excellent nonsense.
  • At one corner we escaped out of Shugborough's grounds to a very pretty place where the narrow but substantial Essex Bridge crosses the river. Lots of fun, dog swimming across the river, paddling, and more. Really extremely pleasant.
  • After that there's a very nice canal bit with a lock and beautiful narrowboats moored. We left Lottie trying to sort out an accessible cup of tea while we went back for the car, via the rather jolly accessible bus thingy ...
  • ... but that didn't work out due to the timing so we just picked her up, did a little shopping, and had a scenic drive home via the other Landmark in Tixall. I think we probably got our cuppa once back at the pavilion.

In the evening Deb and I took the dog down to another (but connected) canaloid place and had a lovely walk. This, to my great excitement, included Tixall Wide and I should explain sometime why this is a Big Deal for me.

The walk was quite hard work once or twice. A lot of the boats have resident dogs so this made Daisy nervous. Quite a lot of boats were cooking or eating outside which made Daisy nosy and greedy, and us nervous! It was a great walk and a fascinating area though: I think the blacksmith's boat was perhaps the most impressive that we saw.

All excellent stuff - a good day out and a nice walk. Thank you and good night.

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