Wednesday, 16 January 2008

IP Address.09 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Ninth and Last

Friday, 31 August 2007

A new study, Porticology, is recommended as an aristocratic pastime; we have a Bit Of A Grumble (though its Heart is in the Right Place); we discuss Access, though not to Excess, and Ha-Has, though not amusingly. We are Nice about a Housekeeper and a Foodiepub. Finally, we return to the Clamour of the City Streets.

Yes, it's time to go home (cue music, cue Andy and Teddy). Just the usual sorting out and packing and a last look round, really, so this presents me with an opportunity to mention a couple of other things that I've not yet fitted in. All somewhat random but hey.

The Housekeeper: Anne Andrews is, as mentioned elsewhere, a star. I think I'm right in saying that she's been with the Pavilion (or maybe the Pavilion has been with her) since it was "new" in 1990. She clearly cares and knows a great deal about the place. It's kept in great shape and she presides over the widest-ranging and best-organized collection of information that I've ever seen in a Landmark. To discover more about this area you should visit Anne's local history and information site which is full of good things.

Harry Moaners: I've said in detail how excellent and clever I think the building is. I don't want to detract from this but in honesty I should also mention some other things that struck us about the place, some slight reservations. This is all very much imho and jabnaas of course.

  • The house feels slightly uneasy in its surroundings. It's quite a dark spot, somewhat hemmed in by trees. Of course it's nice that there's the openness of the ride in front, organized to show off the best view of the portico; this is a broad grassy swathe through the wood, around 150m long, down to where it meets a pretty, sheepy field, or rather parkland. Then the back garden is very pleasant, especially when it's sunny: a nice lawn with lovely banks. Nevertheless the close, dense covering of mostly uninteresting trees gives a slightly Twin Peaks feel to its surroundings.

  • There's an officially permitted walk in the wood for Landmarkers. Down the ride, turn right into the wood. There you'll find trees blazed with white paint: follow them till you're back on the track near the Pavilion. Turn right again. You're back. It's probably six hundred metres including the ride and track. Now it's a perfectly pleasant enough little stroll, sure, but it's not exactly the keys to the countryside. I'm not sure if it's pheasants, forestry or what that's of such importance here but it's certainly not you. And why should it be, you ask? Well, no good reason really, as long as your attitude to the outdoors is more about ownership than stewardship and you're not concerned with opportunities for a bit of education and/or PR.

  • The above may be unfair. The wood's owners may feel that they've made a huge concession and the Landmark may feel that this walk is the best they could negotiate: in either case I apologize but I have to say that it feels like a grudging welcome at best. Please feel free to comment.

  • You can also walk almost three hundred metres along the track past the house, still in the wood, to the edge of a field. You can't go in the field, though, so once you've admired the view and the ha-ha (see below) you just retrace your steps.

  • The lack of walks from the Pavilion itself does add somewhat to the slight feeling of being hemmed in. Any walk, even the most local, starts with the same process of walking back along where you drove to get in. It all feels like you're a bit out on a limb.

  • This is all somewhat reinforced by the footpaths map displayed in the Pavilion. It's not really a map of where you can go: more a list of what is proscribed. You tend to look at it a minute or two then say "oh: welcome to Ingestre," in a rather small voice.

  • Somewhere in the Pavilion's extensive documentation it mentions that it took two years or something to (unsuccessfully?) negotiate wayleaves for services to reach the house. I may well be misquoting or muddling the detail (jabnaas) but it was along those lines. My Dad used to do wayleaves for the behemoth now called BT and although I know he encountered some rather tricky people (for some reason the village of Priddy comes to mind) I don't think he ever had one that went on this long. It's probably wrong to over-interpret but knowing this certainly doesn't do anything (for me) in reinforcing the idea of the Landmark being welcomed here - or not back then in the late 80s anyway.

  • In the log book someone says (in effect) "don't let Granny, little Tamsin, or Rover wander round to the front of the Pavilion unless you wish to risk having them frisbeed." I may be paraphrasing a touch but the basic idea is correct: the official traffic seems to almost make a point of not slowing down as it passes the house. Obviously it's in a hurry to get on with its duties in estate/farm management, forestry, pheasant plucking or whatever but I'd have thought it appropriate to ease off a touch here. There's no public traffic - the road is private from way back, so, fortunately, not that many vehicles use it. That's also why you need the Landmark Wooden Toblerone which I mentioned in the IP1 blogalogablog (Ben).

  • There's actually a slight dip in the track in front of the building, which dip I think was created to help get the Pavilion's front view, with its three lovely steps, back to how it was intended. It seems almost a matter of honour that this too is taken at full speed. Clangitty bonk crash.

  • I think I got a friendly smile or wave from one of the local drivers once or twice, but in general I didn't really Feel The Love all that much.

  • I'm in danger of going too far, I know, with my townie leftie resentment and my not overly empathic approach to anything that seems to me to walk or quack even vaguely like a Tory landowner, and I should probably stop before I make an even bigger *rse of myself. Again, do please feel free to comment and especially if it's your land.

  • And yes Tamsin I really do understand that if they put me in charge it would be all warm and cuddly and caring, and then bankrupt in a year because I don't got What It Takes and I don't got the Rural Smarts. I just wouldn't mind feeling a touch more accepted and welcomed, is all. We're always being told how we dreadful townies don't understand the countryside: if so, what a missed opportunity this was to educate us with something a bit more subtle than "Private - Keep Out".

  • And that's enough bleating. I'm not saying I hated the place and I'm not saying that if you've booked a holiday there (hello Matt) you should at once cancel it and go to Butlins instead. Very far from it. Let's get it straight that I really really loved Ingestre Pavilion: if I didn't I wouldn't have bothered writing in such detail about its good points as well as what I see as its few limitations. Remember this is just my view and Your Mileage May, as they say, Vary. Indeed it probably will. As I keep pointing out, perhaps ad nauseam, this is Just A Blog, Not An Authoritative Source. If you were to let my comments put you off a holiday here, you'd be missing my point. Please go there and experience it for yourself!

    So, what else?

    Porticology: It's an essential part of the Ingestre Pavilion experience that you feel what it's like being in the portico. Don't just use it as a big porch and zip through it in three seconds en route for the front door - how often do you get glorious architecture like this to play with? Weather permitting, take your coffee and your crossword out and enjoy just being there. I think on one occasion I took a chair out for a few minutes and on another I just sat on the steps: very pleasant if it's warm. Indeed this portico-sitting is best accomplished when it's both warm and sunny, so check your time: it faces roughly northeast and doesn't get that much sun, or didn't when we were there in late August. But the feeling of being out there, just enjoying the pillars, arch and plasterwork, the symmetry, the light and shade, the view down the ride, is not something to miss. Ham it up. Be Lord Ingestre or Sir Norman d'Ingestre or Major General Montague Ingestre or the Rt Revd Archie Ingestre or whoever. Survey your domain. Admire from afar, down the ride, the parkland of your ancestral home; feel the weight of your heritage; Live your Portico Moment! Yeah baby.

    Disability access is an interesting question at Ingestre Pavilion. You'll see it mentioned in the first of the IP blogs: basically, while it is not a fully accessible building, it represented a pretty good, very workable compromise for us and we had a fine old time there. The Landmark Trust is, however, looking at its access at the moment. They must, I guess, be aware that it's so close to being more fully accessible; and of course it is actually a property that might cope with more change, having after all mostly been built around 1990! Imagine having responsibility for this issue at, say, the Egyptian House or the Wardrobe? No thanks! But here at least you can see that there's some chance of progress. It must still be exceedingly difficult, and I presume (and fervently hope) that there'll always be some things that are sacrosanct: for example I wince to think of anything permanently affecting the appearance of the steps and front. But their architects' ingenuity is writ large all over this building and I suspect that it will ride to the rescue again.

    I was very pleased that Anne Andrews encouraged Becca to write something about access at the Pavilion. Whilst I have no doubt that the Trust will have experts and consultants and rules and regs, there's a lot of value in recent, direct, personal experience. So I hope that whatever they decide will have been assisted in its development by Becca's views.

    Ha-has. Ah yes, I meant to mention these. There's one in front of the Pavilion, some way down the ride: indeed it makes "ride" a particular misnomer as you really wouldn't want to risk riding anything much down it. For some reason I can't quite bring myself to call it an avenue, though, so ride it is until I find or am told a better term. (Ah yes, it is arguably a vista - thank you Lottie.) Anyway there it is and very pretty too. It's not functional these days: actually I found it hard to see how it had ever worked since nothing connects to its ends. Nowadays you can just walk round, but at one time it must have either gone further or been linked to some other barrier. (Unless of course it was never functional, only ornamental? Seems a little unlikely.)

    The other ha-ha is rather more straightforward and comprehensible, largely because it is still doing its job of keeping the cattle in the field. This is the bit you get to see if you walk the 300m that I mentioned, along the track after the Pavilion. I strongly recommend you do this as it's a pleasant and picturesque spot, with a sort of bridge over the ha-ha's ditch, and nice old trees, and so on. All that the ha-ha protects now is some not-all-that-interesting woodland like that which borders the Pavilion, but one assumes that originally it was separating something more like gardens or parkland: its current role could really be performed - though less elegantly - by a fence. Whatever the original intention, it's a pleasant place to stand and speculate.

    Architectural relics: while prowling round the Pavilion on our last morning I remembered to look for something mentioned in the documentation, which is, upstairs in the old part, the blocked doorways which would have led into the previous building. They didn't fit the new layout so they're just a reminder now, but it's nice to see them.

    More pub food: I've already mentioned The Bear Inn at Alderwasley, where we had an excellent dinner after the delights of Chatsworth. Earlier in the week we'd had a different but also very pleasant evening at the Holly Bush Inn in Salt, a pretty village, much closer to the Pavilion. This seems to be a larger and slicker operation than The Bear but still does a good job and was welcoming, helpful and all that stuff. They were busy, we didn't have a reservation but did have a wheelchair, but after a short wait - eased by the time-passing magic they call "Beer" - we were seated in a cosy corner. The food was excellent but - and I know it seems like a crazy complaint - there was almost too much of it. Although I am not exactly the world's most restrained eater, I would honestly have been happier with maybe 3/4 of the portion I actually got. Sure, I know you don't have to eat it all - except that in some ways, perhaps embedded in your upbringing a bit, you do. I find it non-straightforward, at least.

    Having said that, it was all very pleasant, service was good, and I enjoyed it. Definitely a superior, local, nosh-up destination for hungry Pavilionistas.

    Meanwhile, back on Friday morning, we're packed and about to go. Anne and her husband turn up and we have a pleasant chat, then it's Start Engines and we're away. One of us is back home in Manchester pretty sharpish; the London party takes a while longer, and eventually Katerina is safely delivered to Finchley-Ost. Thank you everyone - the Landmark, Anne, Becca, and the people who commissioned and built this bizarre, fascinating edifice - for a fine and quirky holiday.