Tuesday, 1 January 2008

IP Address.05 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Fifth

Monday, 27 August 2007

In which we discuss Choice, visit a rather good Stately Home, and travel on a small Railway. Luncheon is taken, in a Sort of Gazebo Thing. We disdain a Maze, though without Undue Rudeness.

Continuing with this holiday's Gardens are Good theme we got out the Useful Little Green Leaflet once more and chose today's outing.

Ah, choice! Choice, that Imaginary Friend of the Anxious Middle Classes! That gigantic hallucinatory fruitbat of the desirable balsamic postcodes! That margarine-sculpted-swan-on-a-hot-day of school admissions! Let us examine briefly this matter of choice.

Decision-making in the von Neustadt family is very democratic, being based on best practice observed in politics, unions, shareholders' meetings and the like. So the kids each have one vote, yes, every person-jack of them has their very own vote, and this they may use without fear or favour, entirely beyond the reach of outside influence. The Hound Gänseblümchen gets but half a vote, as she does not entirely meet all the citizenship and literacy requirements. This half-vote she may use without fear or favour, any time she can write an X in the little box or dictate her choice to an amanuensis.

To ensure that certain interests receive fair representation and in accordance with the finest democratic traditions a block voting system is then used for the remainder of the family. As a person of some significance I naturally receive two hundred votes which I may use without fear or favour. Ah yes indeed I do. Finally, Deborah has a block of a mere eight million votes and these, you will be pleased to hear, she uses without fear or favour either. Thus is democracy served and the correct decisions reached: you know it makes sense.

Anyway, the decision was that we were going to Weston Park, and a darned fine decision it turned out to be. It's a very impressive estate some way out to the southwest of Stafford: indeed I think that en route we pretty much passed the area of yesterday's walk.

Weston Park covers a huge area and when we arrived they were still removing equipment brought in for the V Festival which had just finished there a day or two earlier. This had clearly been a monster event, judging by the miles of temporary roadway still in situ.

Confusingly there was also a special event on that day - a Noddy Festival or some such infant delight - and the parking arrangements and stewarding and so on were quite complicated. It was all very helpfully run, though, and we ended up in a staff-ish carpark pretty much as convenient as you could get without actually parking inside the house.

It's rather lovely there. Just by where we parked is all the central visitor stuff in an old dairy/stable/farm/whatever bit, done very attractively. The house itself is the other side of that but we just admired it from outside, and very handsome it is too.

I don't think today was an especially early start (yeah right) so by the time we'd got ourselves there and sorted, lunch was beginning to look like a priority. I can't remember if we'd brought it with, or got some or all of it as a take-away, or what. What I do remember, though, is where we ate it, which was in a superb little gazebo thing, like a miniature bandstand, with a nice view over the house's outbuildings, chapel and lake: this was exceedingly pleasant.

After that we wandered around a bit. There was a nice walled garden which, like Shugborough's, was being restored and brought back into use. I would say that this process was rather less intensive and advanced here than at Shugborough. There's a nice plantation of fruit trees which is currently a bit titchy but will grow into a fine orchard one day. I think it's some sort of reference collection with some sort of agri-academic link to a local college: it contains examples of zillions of different types.

There was also a maze but this needs years more growth before it starts to become interesting. At the moment it's a bit low-key, low-altitude, apologetic, and undermaintained. Too many dead plants are evident and it was being mildly abused by foolish people's foolish children. So it wasn't, like, one of your Top Ten Maze-Going Experiences: but hey. Still fun to see, and will improve with the passage of time.

Sort of round the corner from there - back near the Place of Lunching - we went down across lawns and past the lake and chapel to a delightful Victorian greenhouse. This proved very adequate for complex processes such as wandering around inside and sitting down outside, and was full of pretty flowers, which cannot be a bad thing.

After that we went round through a nice wooded bit (where I was tickled to briefly lose two daughters, total age thirty-six, to the adventure playground) and on to the utterly splendid miniature railway. I mean, for a start it was a miniature railway and therefore nice by definition. (If you don't like miniature railways please don't tell me, as I won't want to be your friend.) It also had pleasant helpful staff running it and, most excitingly, had a wheelchair-accessible carriage. This was actually quite cosmic home-grown engineering, involving demounting a bench to give a big flat area then securing the chair with those proper industrial ratchetty tie-downs. (I'm sure these have a name?) A teeny ramp to bridge the platform gap would've been even better, but even so this was a very fine arrangement, on which they deserve serious congratulation.

So off we chugged. Lot and Marfs rode in the back with Daisy, which was good as we were in the middle and you get to (try to) take interesting photos across the bends. Mrs von Neustadt preferred to walk so we saw her occasionally during our long and adventurous journey. It really is a good one, with all sorts of interesting wooded bits. Eleven out of ten.

The exertions of the train journey having taken their toll we needed propping up with a cream tea back in their nice café thing. A quick zoom round to admire and photograph the very smart, formal front of the house then followed.

And that, dear reader, was pretty much that: off home to our splendid Pavilion, evening-type lolling-around activities... you know the drill. I hope so anyway, for I have quite forgotten the details. Good night!

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