Well, true to my word, yesterday afternoon (after the snail racing…) number two daughter, her friend and I went off to have a stroll around Ascott House and the gardens.
It’s the nearest National Trust property to our home, and every year it opens at the time when the daffodils are in flower, and every year, without fail, I manage to miss that, and instead end up going just as the daffs have really gone over. No different this year – drift after drift of sad looking brownish flower heads. Maybe next year?
Anyway, there’s so much more than just the bulbs to enjoy at Ascott. It had been quite a few years since I’d been inside the house there – it really isn’t somewhere to take small children – unless you have nerves of steel, or a very short rein.
But yesterday, we all decided to have a look around inside before we took to the gardens.
I suspect that this is not a house where children are particularly encouraged. It’s main claims to fame are its pictures and its china – neither will hold the attention for very long of young children. We quickly decided to create our own entertainment, in the form of counting the number of horses we could find in pictures or sculptures. This was made especially challenging by the race painting over the mantlepiece in the Library.
Our count was 165, but that really could do with independent verification.
For me, the highlights of the house were the cut flowers and flowering shrubs decorating the rooms, and the ‘secret’ door in the Library, which ‘holds’ amongst other titles ‘Log Book of The Ark’. Go and see it for yourself .
I’ll go back another day when I don’t have the children in tow to have a good look at the pictures. There was a lovely Gainsborough of a lady with ginger hair, wearing a blue dress – also in the Library, which was beautiful – must go again for a longer look.
The gardens at Ascott are its real attraction. The house itself might not be what you’d call child friendly, but the gardens are another matter. I’m not suggesting that they have been designed with children in mind – quite the opposite, but they are equipped with all the essentials that children need for a good time outdoors – plenty of places to run around, and even better, hundreds of places to hide.
Take my advice though – agree a meet-up spot before they go off exploring – it’s too big a garden to be wandering about trying to find them at the end of your visit.
For us grown-ups, there’s lots to enjoy. The garden contains little mini-gardens, so you have grand water fountains close to an intimate herbaceous border, a tranquil sunken garden near a yew sundial – and loads more. This is a truly gorgeous place to stroll around.
The established South gardens are wonderful, with their extensive views out across the Buckinghamshire/Bedfordshire border – one chap yesterday was telling his party that he could see the roof top of Mentmore Towers – perhaps he could.
But don’t miss the newer gardens laid out to the north of the house. These are a modern extravaganza – light-hearted and quirky. Yesterday I was particularly enchanted by the circular pool with the blossom trees all in flower. If you painted it, people would think it was allegorical, maybe it is. I loved it.
The girls enjoyed their trip. Much hide and seek was had, and we all went home content.