Wednesday, 28 July 2021

To The Manor Born - Revisiting Packwood House

 


Our plans to visit a different National Trust property in another county yesterday had to be shelved after a serious accident closed the motorway. Instead, we resorted to Plan B, revisiting one of our favourite local places. With Packwood House being the ancestral home of Jon's 9 x great-grandmother, Alicia Featherston (1592 - 1645), after a three-month absence, we were overdue a repeat visit. Last time we'd been (HERE) I was wearing gloves! 

We started our trip with a wander in the woods but took a wrong turn along the forest path and ended up in an overgrown swamp seemingly miles away from anywhere. With my vintage silk kaftan tucked in my knickers to avoid being torn to pieces by brambles and trying our best to avoid the ankle-high mud, we eventually found a farmer's fence to climb over and eventually reached the main road scratched, muddy and, in Jon's case, covered in bites.


The weather forecast had been for a warm day with occasional deluges and thunderstorms. The skies couldn't have looked more ominous but, other than a sharp shower on the forty-minute journey there, it stayed mercifully dry.

It's lovely that we no longer have to pre-book our National Trust visits, a welcome return to spontaneity. With distancing restrictions lifted, the previously rigid one-way system had been relaxed. Parts of the garden that had been closed previously were now accessible, including the fabulous kitchen garden where we compared the progress of our crops with theirs.



Good to see that Stonecroft isn't the only garden with giant mutant alliums!


As always, I have to photograph any gate, arch or door. I'm obsessed!


The colour co-ordinated planting made us swoon with joy. Purple, aubergine, pink...I'd never have the discipline to limit the colour palette in our garden, I want all the colours!




As an enthusiastic - but not particularly knowledgable gardener - when I spot plants that grow freely in our garden I look at when grows beside them and assume that they'll also work in ours. We've got Crocosmia, sempervivum, euphorbia, sedums and bronze fennel in abundance so if Phlox thrives at Packwood, it can in our borders, too.



Another obsession, antique wrought iron benches and the need to pose on them!


My silk kaftan escaped the swamp unscathed, thank goodness. 


The Alpine border had been roped off on our previous visits. The intense pink daisies and the electric blues of the Eryngium were an absolute delight.


Get off my land! Jon's ancestors, the Featherstons, planted these yew trees over 400 years ago. Jon's got his groovy charity shop shirt on again. As he's the former Lord of the Manor he decided he could get away with going out in his Crocs, stuff the peasants.




Currently the school summer holidays, quite a few kids were playing hide and seek amongst the trees - very considerate really, I hate having people photobombing my pictures! 



The planting along the pathway to the summer house reminded us of Stonecroft's, chaotic, colourful and alive with pollinators and plant hollyhocks, went straight to the top of the mental garden to-do list for next summer.




We loved the juxtaposition of the typically English Tudor manor house with the exotic Yukkas flanking the front door.








Of course, with the relaxation in restrictions, we could finally go inside Packwood House for the first time in almost two years. Although no longer mandatory, everyone wore masks, used the sanitiser at the door and maintained their distance. 


When asked why in 1904, Alfred Ash, a Birmingham businessman and confirmed city dweller had, somewhat impulsively, bought the 134 acre Packwood Estate in rural Warwickshire at auction he replied, I bought it because the boy wanted it.


The boy was his beloved 16-year-old only son, Graham Baron Ash (pictured above). As he preferred to be called, Baron was said to be both reserved & courageous with a party-loving generosity. His work with the family firm, which he never much cared for, came to a halt at the outbreak of the First World War when he volunteered for the medical corps. Before joining up he travelled to, amongst other places, Burma, India and Egypt, where he recorded his encounters with the people he met. In his diary, he writes of bribing a priest in China to order to acquire an ancient roof tile. This, it is said, was when a lifetime of haggling over antiques begun.


Determined never to go back into the family business after leaving the army, Baron dedicated the rest of his life to restoring Packwood House, stripping back the lavish Victorian interior, considered at that time to be hopelessly outdated, and restoring the house to reflect its original Tudor heritage. Years ahead of his time, Baron set about acquiring architectural salvage from demolished historical buildings and hunting down antique textiles, furniture and artefacts from around the world to furnish his dream country house. There were some modern comforts included, this was, after all, a young man's party pad and so en-suite bathrooms and a sprung dance floor were added to make 16th Century Packwood House the ultimate in Jazz Age party venues.


The interior is just as beautiful as the gardens. If you can go...go!


Before we went back to our car picnic we popped to the plant shop and treated ourselves to a couple of perennial Mount Fuji Phlox plants (the tall white flowers) that had been grown by the gardeners at Packwood. The weather played nicely, I was able to transplant them as soon as we got back and then it kindly chucked it down for an hour to water them in. Now we've planted a bit of Jon's ancestral lands in our garden!


We weren't expecting a charity shop outing this week what with rubble collecting, tip runs, the painter and decorator possibly starting our exterior upstairs windows, Jon's preliminary dental implant visit & the lads having their annual boosters but the vets have just called, they've been pinged and they'll all having to quarantine so we've off for a rummage in the morning. 

To add to my excitement Jon's cooking an Indian feast and its rum night. See you soon!

37 comments:

  1. Your silk kaftan is beautiful and it looks lovely on you. It's great to see another visit to National Trust. Even if you had to go for plan B and not what you originally planned for, it seems it worked out just fine. I love to revisit beautiful places as well. Packwood House definitely looks beautiful. The gardens look so lovely. Naturally, you had to revisit this place again, it being the ancestral home of Jon's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- great-grandmother:). It really is fun to know one's ancestors.
    Enjoy your run night with Jon.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ivana! That kaftan feels so good to wear, its so fine its like wearing nothing!
      A month ago we couldn't just turn up at a National Trust property without pre-booking so it's lovely to be able to have a last minute change of plan and still get a trip out! xxx

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    2. yes, it is wonderful things are getting back to normal that way.

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  2. There's something so pleasing about the beautiful symmetry of the house - it really appeals to me. I loved the planting and the doors/gates/iron work was beautiful.

    I'm so glad you didn't ruin your lovely kaftan!

    We used to have hollyhocks growing wild out of cracks in the concrete at the front for years.Then we got rid of them when put down the gravel and pot plants.Though I've noticed one has reasserted itself and is trying to grow through the gravel...I bought two this year from garden centres; one is about to burst into bloom and the other has no sign of a bud on it and is looking a bit ropey. Good luck with your Phlox!
    xxx

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    1. Packwood is one of our favourites, it's such a joy to look at the the wild planting really compliments its prfect symmetry, doesn't it? I'd have loved to have gone to one of Baron's parties!
      I'm glad I didn't ruin my kaftan, too. There's one currently on ebay for £840!!!
      I'm glad your hollyhock has made a comeback. I'm not sure why we haven't any in our garden, they are the perfect cottage garden flower, aren't they? xxx

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  3. It's all happening at your house! rum, curry - two of my favourite things! Packwood looks beautiful indoors as well as out although you would have trouble getting me out of that garden! Your beautiful silk kaftan - if anything had happened to it on that muddy diversion I would never have forgiven you! beautiful pictures of you both today. I like phlox too and hollyhocks -Waitrose have been selling them funnily enough so you could get some big ones established.

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    1. I know - Wednesday is the new Saturday!
      I was thinking of you , trying to keep that dress safe whilst scrabbling through the undergrowth. I'm so not a country girl in my false eyelashes and posh frock!
      fancy Waitrose selling plants. I've never been in one, the nearest to Walsall is 10 miles away over in Lichfield but one of my friends' husbands grows them and he's kindly offered to send us some seeds! xxx

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  4. Vix, I had to laugh at the image of your silk kaftan tucked into your knickers! Glad you survived the swamp. Jon's really got his Lord of the Manor stance down to a T now. He could have some great role play fun with that. I don't know if you ever watched Dead Ringers, but I used to love it when a Russel Crowe Gladiator impersonator used to arrive at historical sights requesting renovations. The alpine bed at Packwood looks very beautiful. Only a party beast would have a sprung dance floor. Baron sounds like a hoot. Have a lovely rum filled night. Lulu xXx

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    1. I;m such a lady...not!
      I've never seen Dead Ringers but I googled it and Jon and I killd ourselves laughing! I wonder if Jon could don a ruff, get a few workmen round and demand a ducking stool, a turning circle for his carriage and a deer park! Brilliant.
      Can you imagine wandering around that garden half-cut after one of Baron's parties? My shoes would be stuffed with plants I'd snaffled! xxx

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  5. Rum night AND an Indian feast? I'll be there shortly! ;-P

    Lovely to see the gorgeous manor and gardens of Jon's ancestors. The flowers are so pretty and lush. I can't resist doors, arches or anything wrought iron either, Vix! and of course, I demand pics of me! It's what bloggers do!

    Gorgeous silk kaftan - I'm so glad you didn't snag it!

    Have a wonderful day!

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    1. There's always room at our table, Sheila!
      Oh yes, I have to pose wherever I can when I'm out and about. Jon's getting very good at putting his hand at to children who want to run across the shot and tell them, hang on a minute mate, important things to do here!
      I was more worried about sngging that kaftan than anything else! xxx

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  6. Most varieties of phlox are easy to grow-but watch out because they will spread. It might take a few years but once they go they really do! If you have any bare patches to fill they do nicely.

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    1. Oh, that's exciting! The RHS suggest you divide the roots up in the Autumn and make more plants. I hope they do, they smell gorgeous. xxx

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  7. What a couple of hours. Eating sandwiches for lunch I watched our two girl rowers win a gold for NewZealand. Bursting into tears because Ian wasn’t here to see it with me, I nearly choked. It is such a joy to now watch your wonderful blog and calm myself with thermos tea. Dear Lord Jon, oh to have that blood running through your veins. Stunning photos. I loved those clay cloches sooo much. Also what is that aubergine coloured flower ? You have it twice. So symmetrical I would love to have it. Very sorry about the accident. They are horrid. Glad you did an alternative visit rather than go home. I think your garden wins. No bites for Jon there. Love your silk outfit Viv. ❤️

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    1. Well done, New Zealand! I haven't seen the latest news from the Olympics yet, I shall switch it on in a bit and catch up. Wouldn't Ian have been proud of those young women doing your country proud?
      I'd love some of those rhubarb forcers, they sell for an absolute fortune at antique fairs.
      That aubergine plant is an Acanthus Spinosus, widely called Bear's Breeches. It's been growing wild behind the shed for years but last year I uprooted bit and moved it to the sunny border in front of the house and it's flowered for the first time. We found another at the weekend and have move that as well. They really are gorgeous, aren't they? xxx

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    2. Be aware that they are very invasive and will take over!!

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  8. Glad you both (and the beautiful kaftan) survived your off-piste excursion. Those gardens are quite lovely.

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    1. I know! We were starting to panic after a while, thanks goodness we spotted that fence!
      Packwood's gardens are quite wonderful, I love how busy the planting is. xxx

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  9. I'm relieved both you and your kaftan escaped the swamp unscathed. As usual, you have taken some beautiful photographs of your visit, but I'm just wondering if I'm the only one who would like to take a small scrubbing brush to those white National Trust signs? X

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    1. Me, too! I thought we might end our days there!!
      You're a domestic goddess, Jules! As a bondefide lover of moss, rust, peeling paint and general decay I love the signs just are they are! xxx

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  10. love to visit the NT gardens and houses with you!!
    the little greenhouses with lifted tops look interesting - what did they grow in them? had a good chuckle about lord jon :-D once i planted phlox - in pink - but it disappeared over the winter..... wish you much more luck with your white ones...... i´m glad you cold escape the swamp without ruining that wonderful silk kaftan!
    xxxx

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    1. I love being able to take you with us!
      I loved those little terrarium type things, if there were a gardener around I'd have asked what they were for.
      I hope our Phlox survives, I keep going outside to check them! xxx

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  11. Wow what an adventure. Good afternoon Vix, poor Jon and his bites. You are a picture in the vintage silk kaftan. That picture of you on the bench just oozes beauty and serenity. New favourite! Also did you notice you've done it again? Your lipstick matched the flowers in the background and your kaftan went well with the bench (Sheila would love those details!) Lovely. It really is stunning. Isn't it great that you do not have to pre-book your visits to NT properties anymore!! We might actually get to one now. There were some monster plants there.. Those Yukkas are huge! I love your posts just as much as I did in lockdown. I know it's heaps of work but keep em coming dear lady Shazx

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    1. Hello Shaz! I know, what a start! Neither of us have any sense of direction, we're utterly useless!
      I hadn't noticed the matching lippie but now you've mentiobned it, yes it does!
      It's so good not having to advance book NT places. We can wake up to sunshine and just decided to go. You ought to have a few trips out near you, they're so inspiring! xxx

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  12. I was a bit flummoxed when I saw you revisited Packwood House on Facebook, instead of going to pastures unknown in another county, so I'm glad all is explained :-) Of course, the glorious gardens of Jon's ancestral home are always worth a visit, and I loved tagging along with you two and seeing its glorious Summer borders. But what an adventure you've had taking that wrong turning. That could have been us :-) I'm glad that gorgeous kaftan survived the ordeal!
    Packwood House's interior looks fascinating too.
    I have planted phlox for the first time this year. It's a lovely variety with bronze tinged leaves and it has just come into flower! xxx

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    1. I know! I thought a few people might be scratching their heads when I shared our Packwood photos on Facebook. It's so good not to have to book in advance and be able to make a spur of the moment change after 17 months of being super-organised, it's really not in my nature!
      I know that you and Jos are as bad as Jon and I for getting lost, we couldn't even blame the Satnav lady this time! xxx

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  13. Squee! I have the red and grey twin of your blue and ivory silk kaftan! It was given to me as the silk had started to degrade where the sleeve hits the body. It is now repaired on the inside with much thin, iron-on fusable lining. Gorgeously floaty for a hot day and the fluttery-ness hides the damage. Glad yours survived going off-piste and brambles and that you were wearing your exploration knickers lol

    How gorgeous is Packwood House - I do think Jon should have his own series - The Lost Gaffs of Lord Jon lol The garden is lovely and I do like a come-hither doorway or arch myself.

    Our garden is battered with the rain - all of our tree lilies have flowered just in time for it and we go out every morning with bamboo canes to try and tie up the stems of anything drooping as a result of sodden flower heads - (sad face).

    In other news - I spent the day sorting out my glove/wrist warmer and mohair scarves. I was looking for items to go in the charity karma bag. It was all smelling a bit musty so I washed everything that could be washed - and once dry put a scrap of fabric, with a drop of essential oil inside each one. Everything got a good airing in the greenhouse away from the rain. Finally I plunked a big lavender bag on top before I put it all away again. My lovely mohair scarves had a soapflake wash and brush up and are how all neatly in a non-musty drawer. Future chilly-me will be very happy and I found a lovely pair of leather gloves to donate. Not as exciting as your day, but it made me happy after a day wading through organising care for Mum!

    Delighted that you're continuing blogging your tours!

    Take care all - hugs to Maryland x

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    1. I have been advised that while 'gaffs' as far as I'm concerned, refers to a house/home - it can also have a number of very different meanings. So make that The Lost Stately Mansions of Lord Jon lol ...

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    2. Twins! I found mine wrongly listed on ebay and snaffled it for silly money, they're so beautifully cut I don't think anyone would notice any repairs, people always go into raprures when i wear mine which feels wrong in a way, how can something so comfy be so pretty?!
      I'm loving your laundering tips! I love it when there's a dry day and I can do some laundering and freshning up. I've got a load of washing pegged out this morning and i'm watching the skies like a hawk!
      You've reminded me, I need to work on my charity shop karma bag, we can't turn up tomorrow morning empty-handed!
      Loads of love tp you and hoping your Mum is okay! xxx

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  14. The idea of you wandering through the woods with your skirt tucked in your knickers made me chuckle and like you I’m obsessed with doors, gateways too.
    We are up at the caravan and I’m having to do a bit of knicker tucking as well, it keep tipping down with rain. Mum has gone off on the bus to Kendal this morning after refusing a lift in the car. She will get soaked as she can’t carry a brolly and use her walking stick at the same time. We’ve got a meal booked in the pub later if she’s upto it and not fell asleep in the lovely cottage where she stays in Grange.
    I like the idea that you’ve not got plants from Packwood at Stonecroft. It’s a lovely link and reminder for you.
    Have a good weekend you two xxx

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    1. I'm such a lady....not!!!
      We've been quite lucky with the waether this week, it was only yesterday (Friday) when we were more or less confined to the house. Happily it's dry this morning and the painter and decorator can finally start work! I hope your mum didn't get too wet. You'll have to get her one of those umbrella hats! xxx

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  15. Packwood is beautiful property and can hear your joy describing it. I'm curious what Baron actually did for employment but I guess being rich is a job.

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    1. It's gorgeous, isn't it? The joys of being wealthy! xxx

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  16. Mmmmm, silk Kaftan. I was horrified at the thought of you having to contend with brambles in it. Like you, I'd rather get scratched to pieces myself and flash my legs rather than ruin a beloved garment.
    Phlox is so pretty. I always think of the Country gardens song when I think of Phlox.
    Packwood is gorgeous- I'd love to see It!

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    1. I know! I was terified of those evil bambles ripping it, I'd rather sacrifice my legs!
      I hadn't heard of Phlox until I saw it on Gardeners' World, I love a tall, architectural type of plant! xxx

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  17. I can't imagine how it would feel to be walking around the grounds and house that belonged to one of your ancestors. That kind of experience is definitely more likely to be able to happen over on your side of the world than mine. I feel for Jon and the insect bites - they love to bite me too, and I would have been miserable. It's interested to see what kind of decor was considered "cool" for a bachelor pad in Baron's day. The white Phlox is a lovely addition to your garden.

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  18. glad that your silk kaftan could survive your adventures! (and poor Jon, insect bites are so annoying!). You're looking fabulous, and I always love your photos with iron benches and old doors. I'm also a huge fan of old doors ;DD
    Thanks for this beautiful visit!, totally enjoying it!
    besos

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Lots of love, Vix