A day out
We've had sweet Aussie friends staying with us for a few days and since they're both National Trust members, it wasn't hard to know where to look for an idea for a day out. Croome has been on my radar for a while and what better time was there to tick it off my list?
It wasn't quite what I was expecting!
The National Trust Welcome centre is housed in old RAF buildings, for as well as the former home of the Earl of Coventry, there's the remains of RAF Defford to see and we understood that it is all situated in one of Capability Brown's landscapes, so we'd brought a picnic too.
Well, I thought, we'll be ok if the weather turns nasty!
As always in such places, the volunteers are remarkably helpful and enthusiastic, so we were prepared for a good walk down to the house and perhaps we'd pop into the church along the way, which we were told, was just around the corner. We'd also asked about the "Capability Brown Village" we'd just driven though, learning about how a group of cottages were inhibiting Lancelot Brown's vision of the landscape, so were demolished and rebuilt in a more convenient spot!
Turning the corner, we decided that he hadn't done a bad job, though I'm not so sure the cottage dwellers would have been so happy?
Our first stop was in the church, no longer in regular use and deconsecrated, with only the grand, marble memorials to a succession of Earls of Coventry as a reminder of former grandeur.
An earlier church had fallen victim to Capability Brown's vision and this replacement designed and built to order with an interior by Robert Adam (yes, that Robert Adam) Simple, light-filled and rather elegant, it would have been a lovely place for the wedding which had been held there last weekend, I'm sure. But it was the dress and demeanour of the statuary which caught our eye!
On to the house then, still some way off but on a fairly humid, overcast morning, we were enjoying whatever fresh air we could find. No grand carriage drive on this side, I felt as if we were coming from the 'wrong' direction, although the map didn't offer an alternative.
We spotted the Chinese Bridge from here and thought we'd take a look later, although once we'd got inside and discovered other interesting things, we didn't actually return after all. Never mind, good to keep something for 'next time', eh?
In the hall, we found Pamela, another enthusiastic and knowledgeable NT Volunteer, who offered maps and advice about what to see. Around her, set in alcoves were several lavish flower arrangements featuring seasonal garden flowers. I remarked on their freshness and beauty, commenting that perhaps the wedding party had played a part here. Not at all. It seems there's a flower team at Croome, creating lovely arrangements of flowers grown and gathered locally and we were to appreciate their work at several points around the house. "Look out for a green folder", said Pamela, "there's a full list of the arrangements and all the details". Sure enough, in the next room, there it was.
That was not the only sound advice she had to offer. Parts of the house are very much still under reconstruction and require the presence of a NT Volunteer to accompany any visitors who'd like to see them. In particular, we'd heard the Red Wing was worth a visit and asked Pamela's advice about how we might manage that. A man in a blue shirt was the answer: "Look our for him in the basement and tell him I sent you". We did - and what we saw will be in another post.
The Croome website offers many details about the house and better photographs than I could take of the finished works. Suffice to say that the completed rooms are elegant and demonstrate the immense skill and vision of Robert Adam in particular, though good old Lancelot Brown was on form here too.
So, in addition to admiring the elegant interiors, I was captivated by the views, as carefully arranged as the flowers in the vases and rather longer lasting. Nothing left to chance, everything stage managed to best effect. Clever or what?
The volunteers were terrific and for the next couple of hours, we made happy progress through the house, finding unexpected fascinations at every stage of our tour.. Rather than simply go from one room to the next, I'll write another couple of post about the themes which really caught our imagination.
One room had a particular link with the WI - I'll begin there in the next post.