Stourhead: A winter visit

Around this time last year we had a few days away in Dorset and finally managed to stop off at Stourhead on our way to the South West. Despite it being winter there was still plenty to see.  I think visiting gardens at this time of year is revealing. I mean, if gardens can look good - and hold your interest - at this time of year, without the frills and fluff of flowers then it must be a pretty special garden. 

Over the winter months the structure, and structures, in a garden are revealed. Stourhead has a few famous vistas, which we saw as we walked around the lake. There was also work underway which included draining part of the lake so we got to see more of the lake than perhaps we usually would.

...Or less of the lake, I guess depending on your viewpoint.


Even so, the lake that was there was pretty clear and reflected the trees well. It was definitely a view you could just sit and watch... 


As we headed around the lake we soon found ourselves at the Grotto, with its pebbled floor, coloured walls and snatched views over the lake. 


The skylight caught my eye, as it threw light into the space.  


We stopped on the muddy path on many occasions to admire the view, it really is pretty special don't you think? 


The dogwoods were looking particularly spectacular, I think this is colour I can only dream of for my own dogwoods in the garden. 


Stourhead was owned by the Hoare family who made their money in banking; they are the last independent bank and the family are still involved in its running today. The Trust have been managing Stourhead since 1947 and like many of its houses and gardens are continually undertaking work on its upkeep.

Work on the pantheon had recently taken place and we peeked in between the wrought iron gates to see inside. I wasn't expecting this:


As ever, I looked up and this time saw a more fancy skylight.  


Continuing our walk around the lake and over the bridge, we stopped to notice the coins which were now visible with less water in the lake. I do wonder if the properties welcome these, and if when times are hard go for a bit of a sweep up. Perhaps it's the stately home equivalent of checking the sofa for loose change, who knows? 


So now that we've actually managed to stop at Stourhead en-route to the South West I'm pretty sure we will again. It'd be great to see how it's changed, and as ever is much more preferable to a service station stop! 

Mammsaurus HDYGG

A mooch around Marlborough

Today I thought we'd have a wander around the shops.  Luckily I have some for us to do just that as on our recent trip to Dorset we stopped off in Marlborough for a much needed break.  I find that having a browse around the shops en-route to somewhere works well as mentally your mind is not really in the market for buying new things and in any case the boot's already full and then there's the whole palaver of explaining why the purchase is "Absolutely Necessary" to your other half which is just easier to avoid.  Sometimes though you see the perfect item and all that I just mentioned is totally worth it, in fact it's just easier to send the other half off on a fake errand and smuggle the essential purchase into the car that way.

There were no purchases for me this time, but I think for Marlborough could be a very dangerous place for me shopping-wise, so it's probably just as well we live a couple of hours drive away.  This mooch around the shops started as all good mooches should, with a coffee!  Every time we're in Marlborough - which isn't that often, but often enough to know where our cafe is - we end up (or start off) in Applebys.  I think the setting helps, and the scrumptious cakes - we had a malteser blondie, very very yum.


One day maybe I'll progress from just having coffee and cake and get to use these salt and pepper pots, I'm sure Mrs Winterbottom wouldn't mind!  Outside we wandered back down to the main High Street but not before admiring some of the brocante on display.  I told you this could be a very dangerous place for me, didn't I?

The other saving grace for my purse was that it was Sunday and not all the shops were open, so we just had to make do peering in through the windows.  I think there was a massive sigh of relief from MOH!


Some shops were open though and well, it was chilly and it'd be rude not to go in.  And I wanted to investigate the feathers in this window display more closely in Charlotte Quest.  Yes they are feathers just scattered there all artfully, it was so very tempting to ruffle them, but we didn't.


It was a shop with lots of prettiness and momentarily all thoughts of our onward journey to Dorset and our next planned stop off at Stourhead were forgotten.  I wanted to move into this shop - ok, that's probably not the most practical of thoughts but I didn't know what to turn to first.  The playing card "book" above or the crates below which originated much closer to home.


I tried to persuade MOH that these alphabet candles would make a great Valentine's present but he was sticking to the "no shopping en-route" policy and besides apparently we already have enough candles and they smell anyway.  Well, I think they'd make a fab Valentine's gift and perhaps I should have snaffled one to give to him, as he has the same initial as me, too late to think of that now though...


There is more we like to Marlborough than the shops (although to be fair they do feature highly), there's this fantastically wide High Street and it's the archetypical English market town with a church at both ends of town.  Twice a week (Saturdays and Wednesdays) the High Street hosts a market which we've not managed to time our visits to coincide with, yet!  It's a characterful place without the market on, I bet it really comes to life on market days.


I think I'd have to agree with Samuel Pepys who recorded his visit in 1668 as "a fair and pretty town" and I'm sure he'd approve of the advice I found too:


Where's your favourite place to mooch around the shops?