I grew up in a house full of books. We moved a lot, but I never remember a time when the books weren’t part of my life. Unsurprisingly, I love to read. As a teen, I devoured every science fiction and classic I could find in the shelves. I took A Level English which gave me the perfect excuse to work my way through our collection of Jane Austen, Dickens, Brontes and more.
The result was that I grew to love the idea of old houses which provided the backdrop to so many of these stories. Candlelit rooms and twisting staircases. The architecture. The whole atmosphere.
I’ve been looking forward to visiting Tyntesfield, near Wraxall, Somerset.
How could I resist?
We headed over last Sunday. They had their local produce market on, so we could not have chosen a busier weekend to go, but once we were beyond the stalls, the crowds thinned out a bit.
The house is amazing. Inside and out. It has the feeling of work in progress, which is hardly surprising as the National Trust has only owned the property since 2002. The dark wallpaper, wood panels, winding corridors and staircases could be straight out of the pages of a Dickens’ novel.
Plenty of period pieces to look at and discuss with the children. They had a go at polishing silver. They found a few outfits to dress up in. They indulged in imagining what life would have been like. I’d like to think that when they reach the stage of hoovering up classics, they will understand the context more.
Once out, we headed off to the kitchen garden. Another walled garden to explore. The flowers and pumpkins were in abundance. This is one of the best walled gardens I’ve seen. So many cutting flowers for the house and the produce would have kept the kitchen busy, probably all year round.
They had a huge range of pumpkins, which were doing well in the bed backing on to one of the walls. Some varieties I’d not come across before.
There is something quite beautiful about a pumpkin patch. I think I’ll be adding more manure to our kitchen garden and planting a few different squashes next year.
I can’t resist investigating greenhouses. It seems my children are the same.
On the way back to the car, the children found a few good trees to climb. Of course.
There were plenty of paths to explore and areas to discover. We even noticed a tennis court that a family was using. Rackets provided for an impromptu game.
We chose a beautiful day to visit. The house lived up to my expectations and the grounds are magnificent. As usual, I could have spent much more time in the kitchen garden. I’d be interested to go back to the house in a few year’s time, to see the progress. Maybe sooner for the garden.
Next time I could bring a book and sit on one of the benches in the walled garden and catch up on a few more stories. It would be perfect.
Many moons ago, before children, we visited Dunster Castle. A National Trust property in Somerset. Just as a couple. The day we visited, they happened to have a visiting group of morris men. Among the group was a person wearing a horse mask. The jaws of which could slam shut making a loud noise.
Needless to say, the person decided to creep up behind me and clap those jaws together. I jumped. As you would. For some reason, my husband thinks this is funny. Every time Dunster Castle is mentioned, he brings up the story.
We have been married 18 years. He needs a new story.
Time to make new memories. Time to visit again.
The castle has a prime position on a hill. The perfect place for a castle. It does mean all paths to the gates are steep, but great for justifying a visit to the shop to buy a bag of fudge.
OK. Maybe just me.
Last Sunday, we headed to the castle.
The rooms are a mixture of show cases and interactive. The children loved seeing the rooms and asked lots of questions. Equally they loved the rooms that they could sit in the comfy chairs and read a book or play connect 4. They all had a go at arranging the cutlery at a place setting and folding napkins.
The dressing up room was fun too. I think between the three of them, they managed to try on every outfit. Covering several different eras of the castles history.
The staff were welcoming without hovering. It felt a very friendly property, with lots of people wanting to share their enthusiasm for the castle.
The crypt had an exhibition about the ghosts in the castle. The children listened to the commentary and read the display boards. They couldn’t resist the shadow play opportunity. There was lots of play acting. Working together.
There was also information about bats, with interactive displays to test your knowledge. Unsurprisingly all three of them could answer all the questions, which pleased them. They have lived with bats all their lives.
The stables were impressive too. We also visited the pet ceremony and the garden keep, which gave great views towards the sea. I envied the children’s enthusiasm to race up the steps and find different routes, while us oldies walked sedatedly around.
Finally on to the Dream garden. A garden full of every cottage garden plants you could imagine. I would have loved to have spent more time in this garden.
The flowers were beautiful.
It was a lovely afternoon. Full of history and beautiful views.
So the big question. Did I manage to usurp my husband’s story? Ha! If only. He took the journey home as an opportunity to tell it once again. I guess that is a no then. It seems I am fated to relive the story for many years to come.