We arrived at Ickworth House relatively early (for us) and after a family weekend at Elvedon Forest Centre Parcs. We'd had a great weekend with my family celebrating my Dad's 80th birthday - he celebrated by doing the zip wire (yes, you read that right it was his 80th birthday), I celebrated with my feet firmly on the ground and my camera in my hands!
So when we arrived at Ickworth the thing we were both relishing was some freedom - not from my family you understand, but from having the Centre Parcs boundaries enforced on us (and it wasn't that bad really). We were looking forward to roam around some parkland so Ickworth was a great choice for that. We'd been to Ickworth many years before with MOH's family and although we remembered some of the house, neither of us had any recollections of the gardens, or the park.
So after sorting out a misbehaving contact lens, we set off to explore... and immediately ducked into the Albana walk among the ancient oaks and yew avenues.
Partway around this circular walk we saw the Trim Trail so started to follow that. I'd love to share some pictures from this "woodland route with exercise stations" but I was giggling so much at MOH's attempts at the stations I didn't even take my camera out. In his defence he couldn't do any of them properly as they were all a bit wet (there'd been a huge downpour and storm overnight) and neither of us wanted him getting mucky. But it was funny, and a great idea.
This trail took us down to the River Linnet which runs through the estate, we crossed it and joined the Red walk and walked along the river bank. It's this river that has been partially dammed at the bottom of the walled garden to create the "Canal Lake" before it heads on its way towards Bury St Edmunds.
Once we got to the multi-spotted signpost we consulted the map as although the Grand Tour looked interesting, 7 miles was a little more freedom than we wanted with the sky turning blacker. We briefly joined the Blue Rotunda walk which took us towards the Canal Lake and the Walled Garden.
The Earl's Summerhouse with St Mary's Church in the background and the Canal Lake in the foreground.
We went through the gate and explored the Walled Garden in which the National Trust are restoring the historic fruit and vegetable collections.
The gorgeous meadow which featured as my M in the Alphabet Photo Project
Next we wandered past the school allotments and up to St Mary's Church. The church isn't owned by the National Trust but it's open to visitors and clearly donations to its upkeep are welcomed.
And then as we moved on, through the trees we got our first glimpse of the house.
Through the archway above is the Italianate garden - which is thought to be the earliest Italian-influenced garden in the country. It has bold shapes and contrasting textures which creates an elegant setting for any family.
There's a croquet lawn, a bat hibernaculum (with 13 underground vaults - but thankfully not open to the public), a spring garden, temple garden and area for magnolias and a stumpery. On the map you're given when you enter it also helpfully marks (with an x - what else?) the best spot to get a picture of the house. The x marks the axial symmetry - and it seems to work:
But back to the garden. And into the stumpery.
As we headed indoors and lunch a look back over our shoulder revealed this view. What a view to entice you around the garden. Perhaps if cake hadn't been promised I might have had another tour around the garden... no you're right, there was cake involved - what was I thinking!
But there was still time to admire the many pots of magnificently beautiful agapanthus on the terrace.
And then as the rain started we headed in for lunch and a cake, and later to explore the house. I'll share my photos from in the house in another post.