Spreading the Net Wider

IMG_4428When you have been a member of an organisation like the National Trust for a number of years there comes a time when you will have visited all your nearest properties, as well as those within an easy day out reach, at least once. This is certainly the case with us so we were pleased to take advantage of one of NT’s newest properties last week, Stoneywell, in Leicestershire.

Nestled against a granite outcrop the house is as organic inside as it is outside, the Arts and Crafts architect designer Ernest Gimson having used the location and local material to full advantage, the house being literally built into the rock and excess granite used for lintels, steps, fire surrounds, etc, often in its natural state. The house was built for Ernest’s brother Sydney at the turn of the 19th century and is full of original furniture made for the house by the Gimson’s contempories – and was offered to the National Trust by the third generation of Gimsons to prevent the property and its contents going the same way as several local properties also designed by Ernest for members of his family. It’s a small property and booking is essential because of this, but it is a real gem and every room is a delight.

The first generation of Gimsons wanted the house to appear as part of the surrounding landscape, so restricted planting to naturalised rhododendrons and heathers and the like. There were numerous rhododendrons in full flower when we went, many of which must have some age to them.

Stoneywell.1The third generation developed the area next to the house into more of ‘a garden’ but when the National Trust took it over the borders were so choked with couch grass that all plants were removed and labelled (where possible) pending a complete overhaul. Nevertheless (and especially as it was a Monday!), I was delighted that NT volunteers had gone to the trouble of having a vase in every single room of the house, filled with what they could pick from around the garden – a lovely touch:

Stoneywell.2National Trust ‘tunnel vision’ does mean that there are many other properties with or without gardens that we may have missed out on, and particularly now we have the campervan this is something we intend to remedy. It was a lovely surprise, therefore, to be invited in my blogging capacity to a media event at Renishaw Hall near Sheffield in May, the Historic Houses Association, sponsored by Christie’s, having just declared the property and its gardens as their Garden of the Year. This award is now in its 31st year and is designed to recognise the importance of some of the countryโ€™s most spectacular gardens with outstanding horticultural and public appeal.

Home to the Sitwell family for nearly 400 years, Renishaw Hall and Gardens is predominantly an Italianate garden set in traditional English countryside. The house and formal grounds date from the 1620s, but it was the passion and commitment of the fourth baronet, Sir George Sitwell,ย  and his admiration for the classical Italian gardens that forms the landscape of Renishaw Hall and Gardens still enjoyed by visitors today. Created between the years of 1886 to 1936, Sir Georgeโ€™s legacy has since been preserved by his grandson, the late Sir Reresby and his wife Lady Sitwell and their daughter and current owner Alexandra, all who have devoted their time to nurturing and developing the stunning gardens.

From the photographs I received in advance any visitors will be in for a real treat throughout the March-September opening period and I am certainly looking forward to our visit in May when I can take you all on a personal ramble around these award winning gardens. Hmm… I wonder if these roses will be in bloom by then…….?

nicola bilson photography

nicola bilson photography

Renishaw Hall border

Renishaw Hall border

(with thanks to Charlotte at HHA for her kind invitation)

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19 Responses to Spreading the Net Wider

  1. Oh my gosh, I want to be there RIGHT NOW. Thank you for sharing these exquisite photographs and for the story.

  2. Chloris says:

    We like to visit some new NT places each year, to make sure we get our money’ s worth. I don’ t know Stoneywell but it looks lovely so perhaps we may fit it into the list this year. I know Renishaw very well as I grew up in the Peak district not far away. It is beautiful and the Sitwell’s were such larger than life characters. I am sure you will enjoy your visit.

  3. Anna says:

    I’ve not visited either Stoneywell or Rennishaw yet but maybe one of these days …. In the meantime it’s good to read about them through your eyes Cathy. A vase of flowers in every room – they must have known of your visit in advance ๐Ÿ™‚ We’re hoping to make use of our membership this year to visit previously unexplored venues in Cumbria.

    • Cathy says:

      And they were all simple little vases too, nothing showy. It will be good to explore a new area in more than just passing-through detail. I wonder how long at a time you will go away for…?

  4. Annette says:

    What a cute little house and charming setting, Cathy. Wish we had a French National Trust! We used to stop in the UK on our way from Ireland to the continent and visit NT or other places open to the public and I still get excited when I see these famous brown signs on the motorway indicating some special place. Thank you for sharing your impressions. Monsieur and I would like to leave our beloved house and garden to the NT…but I suppose they’d not be interested ๐Ÿ˜‰ Enjoy your weekend!

    • Cathy says:

      Well if Sir Roy Strong and The Laskett were turned down by the NT I am afraid there is little chance for the likes of us… We just have to hope that they will pass to someone who recognises the spirit of the place, like we do… Are you back home again after your travels? You will be thrilled to be in your garden again if you are ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I like the look of Stoneywell – it sounds fascinating. So nice of them to join in your meme! (Does one of them blog too? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) It certainly looks like you have something to look forward to in your visit to Renishaw Hall.

    • Cathy says:

      Stoneywell is a little nearer than Calke Abbey so is now our nearest NT property – with the conurbation in between it will be a lot further for you though… The downside of the Renishaw visit is that we have to tag it onto returning from holiday – I shall be desperate to check out my own garden by then ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Brian Skeys says:

    Congratulations on your invite, I look forward to reading about your trip to Renishaw Hall.

  7. rickii says:

    You have such elegant places to visit, with so much history behind them. Here, the gardens are usually in a state of flux, so visiting the same garden in a different year or season can be a fresh experience.

    • Cathy says:

      Season visits can be enjoyed to many gardens here too, although our weather is probably generally less variable than yours so year to year visits may not change much

  8. I love the touch of all those simple vases of flowers, and the house sounds right up my street. I’m hoping to visit more gardens this year, so far just Bodnant, but hey, more gardens are opening in April so bring it on! Tboses roses look amazing…

    • Cathy says:

      Ooh yes, I would love another visit to Bodnant – not quite at its best in December! Not sure of our visiting plans for the rest of the year after our Outer Hebrides trip. Day trips to gardens will definitely be on the cards though ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pingback: The Renishaw Ploughman | Rambling in the Garden

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