Oh yes, I just did that, did you see it? that little play on words? no? sheesh….you’re a tough crowd.
I can’t remember exactly who recommended it. It may have been one of those conversations in the pub, or with my hairdresser or my manicurist, but I had been recommended to visit Stourhead in the Autumn., the colours were meant to be beautiful. After six months apart Esra was arriving in October, to say I was on pins was an understatement, I was so excited I felt sick! I had taken the week off work so that I could spend some time with him when he did arrive, and this visit became one of those agenda items.
Being American, when I told him we had been recommended to go because the colours were beautiful, he jumped at the chance. Images of New England in the Fall filled his head, and we were excited to see such a spectacle.
We arrived one Saturday morning, on a bright a crisp day, along with the world and his wife. Damn whoever had been telling me to go, they had obviously been telling everyone else too. Despite the 2650 acres of estate, we still felt very crowded and there were few opportunities to take photos without some stranger stood in the way. There are a number of maples which had turned delightful shades of gold and red, but nothing like the en-masse images I’m sure Esra had in his head. The trees were surrounded by people all taking snap shots, so it was again, very difficult to get a lovely photo for the records. We did our best, but I think woefully missed the money shot.
During this visit we also went into the house. It was obviously early days in Esras British education and he was still an excited American, seeking out history wherever he could. He has since calmed and after nearly a year over here, only really gets excited about the most magnificent of Stately Homes and Castles (spoiled huh?). The house itself does not allow photography of any description, which is a mild irritation, and as you probably know from my mini rant on Sherborne Castle that I find this quite irksome. The reasons proffered I also find amusing, working in insurance myself the statements that ‘its for insurance purposes’ are akin to ‘it’s for health & safety reasons’, i.e. a catch all hide behind. My cynical mind says ‘it’s so you buy the guidebook with all our expensively purchased glossy photos’, but then that’s me, every the skeptic. Needless to say, I nabbed a few, I can’t help but be a rebel.
All of these moan aside, the estate is HUGE and you can definitely spend a whole day there if you so wish. You can also spend a lot of money too, from the gift shop with plants and wind-chimes and other garden ornaments to the restaurant selling rather expensive (but I am sure delicious) food. Then there is the art gallery selling a multitude of local artists work, which I have to say, contained some utterly ravishing items.
Here are the photos from that first visit. What I have purposefully done here is show you my photos from November last year. This is how my photos were coming out, there is the odd good one, and edited they could be reasonable, but, feeling unfulfilled in my photography, what I mean to say is, I didn’t feel that I was capturing the beauty that I saw, spurred me on to do a little research. Just the few pointers which I posted about in improve your phone photos, made all the difference to the quality of photos I started to take. And I like to think I am still getting better, refining my editing skills so that I am not so ‘heavy handed’ in post photo edit.
Our second visit was a bright and sunny summers day. We expected to see a vast difference since our last visit and we were not disappointed. All the trees in full bloom, and what few flowers there were, adding dots of colour to the landscape. You see, Stourhead isn’t a manicured estate, with formal gardens, terraces and striped lawns. It makes use of the natural valley of the River Stour and provides a rolling and natural landscape.
As previously mentioned the site is vast. You can wander the well trodden paths around the lake, admiring distant views of the temple of Apollo, sneak glipmses of the grottos, with the elevated Pantheon and cascade from it’s elevated position, punctuating each break in the trees. There are a number of places to sit and admire the view, to escape the crowds and to commune with nature.
Get a little adventurous and you can find yourself wandering off into the distant woodlands, along muddy trails with only the birds for company. Wander this way and you will be greeted by more than one or two little surprises, metal junk artwork, adding a strange juxtaposition to the natural landscape. Look carefully though, get distracted by a squirrel and you can just as easily walk straight past them.
Our visit this time was a couple of hours out of our day, time for some fresh air and time spent together holding hands and enjoying each others company. We didn’t visit the house and we didn’t spend any money at the shops or the restaurant, we used it as some downtime. It was relatively quiet when we arrived as the weather had been on the drizzly side, but as we left and the sun had come out, the hoards were arriving. We were glad to leave when we did, and we had a very enjoyable time.
The story of the Hoare family is a sad one and a romantic one in equal measure. I shan’t spoil it for you, but leave you with the opportunity to seek it out yourself. Needless to say, there are a lot of memorials throughout the estate dedicated to Harry and his father and there is a story trail throughout the gardens that you can follow with the aid of a guide collected from the visitors centre.
As a National Trust member, we parked for free. None members need to pay and display.