February 15, 2015

Snowdrop time

“…….Oh B, I’d really like to see some snowdrops this year” said Charlie, a couple of weekends ago.

I had a quick think, and called my erstwhile builder Raymond Williams, who seven years ago helped me do up the Old Parsonage.  As well as owning a small and very good building firm, Raymond happens to be the latest in the line of an old, old Dorset family who have lived in a beautiful house called Herringston, just south of Dorchester, for many generations.

“Raymond”, I said, “could I introduce you to Charlie and could we come snowdrop peeping?”.  Raymond said they were not yet quite out, but to come in two weeks time. “Come for lunch” he said.  So yesterday, we did.

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Admittedly, the snowdrops at Herringston are famous. Raymond told us that he has a letter in the house dating from the 18th century, where a new bride of the Williams family is writing back to her parents and describing how, in the first weeks of February, the people of Dorchester would walk out on a fine early spring day to admire the snowdrops down the drive of this ancient Dorset manor house.P1080157 P1080163 P1080164 P1080165

D you see what I mean?P1080166

(Can we also talk about how cool the ageing Land-Rover is, outside the aged grey stucco facade of the house?)

But back to the snowdrops, coming alive in the warm February sunshine…P1080167 The view is spectacular.

Two years ago, the entire area of the drive itself was flooded for weeks and Raymond and his wife feared the snowdrops had gone for ever.  But thankfully, this year, they have started coming up again.
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Some other glimpses of their beautiful garden. The remarkable Victorian conservatory:P1080182

The back of the house has curious glazing bars shaped in a ‘X’, which makes the whole of the garden front look at little as if it is in World War 2, preparing for the Blitz.P1080183

Just to the left are a pair of sash windows that remind me hugely of the Old Parsonage:P1080184

On the other side of the house, a glimpse across the beautiful walled garden:P1080195

and of the greenhouse, which I love:
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Cat-flap, country house style:P1080200

A view through the glazed entrance porch:P1080204

And of the fine late 18th century gothick sash windows:P1080205

After lunch, we were taken on a tour of one of the great treats of Herringston – one of the most beautiful rooms I know… the first floor drawing room.  It has a remarkable 17th century Jacobean plaster ceiling – a complete dream:P1080211 P1080213 P1080217 P1080218 P1080221

You don’t know where to look.  It’s such a quiet, soft, serene, timeless room – you can only imagine the history that such a place has seen.

A glimpse into the conservatory – February sun streaming in.
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We went for a wonderful walk to the Williams’ beautiful, newly planted wood, and then it was time to make our farewells.  One last round of the snowdrops:P1080236 P1080244 P1080254 P1080257

The garden is open at the weekends for snowdrop peeping – all are welcome.  Just turn up – there is an honesty box in aid of the local Hospice at the gate. And so, a long tradition continues.

And that is inspiration. Can you think of a happier place for Valentines day?

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