It’s that time of year again when the visits have ceased for a while so I have time to take stock and assess how I’m getting on. My programme in 2014 started with the Bath Assembly Rooms back in January and finished just this month with a trip to the Red House in Bexleyheath. After 24 visits in 2013, I went a few better this year and managed to tick off another 32 properties. I did have a few extra months in which to do it – having only started in July the previous year – so it doesn’t look that impressive in hindsight. Still, I didn’t start this challenge in order to let it dominate my entire life so I think 30 or so in a year is still good progress and it takes me to 56 out of 257 (although I added one this year so that has gone up to 258!)
So, in summary, 2014 saw 32 visits (all in England this time) covering 12 counties. For the purposes of this analysis, I have included Greater London as a ‘county’ and have put Osterley Park under this heading rather than using Middlesex, which despite continued use in addresses has actually been swallowed up by London and its neighbouring counties. Overall, I ticked off 10 properties in the South East region, 9 in the South West, 9 in the North West, 2 in the East of England and 2 in London. By county, I visited 9 properties in Cumbria, 6 in Somerset, 3 in East Sussex, 2 each in Surrey, Kent, Devon, Suffolk and Greater London and 1 each in West Sussex, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
Having made my first forays into the North West region during 2014, the only regions that I have still yet to visit are the North East and Northern Ireland. Cumbria also became the first county to be completely ticked off, perhaps surprising considering it is one of the furthest from home! I actually had a lovely week in the Lakes and the surrounding area back in May and took in a few of the Trust’s Coast and Countryside locations to boot. Similarly, a week in Somerset in September included some Coast and Countryside (in Dorset and Devon) and diversions to look at a few of the smaller properties in the Trust’s ownership. It also involved the addition of Shute Barton in Devon to the list as my trip to the area fortunately coincided with one of its open weekends.
Wordsworth House & Garden in Cockermouth, Cumbria, laid claim to being both the furthest west and the furthest north that I got during the year, with Flatford being the most easterly of my visits and Shute Barton the most southerly.
Another thing I ought to mention is how informative and educational this year has been. My visit to Constable Country led me to read a biography of the painter and to take in the exhibition of his works at the V&A in London. Similarly, the Petworth visit has inspired me to investigate Turner and his art in a little more detail and I’ve just started reading a book about his life and work. And after my visit to Bateman’s, I have finally read Kipling’s The Jungle Book. I also picked up an interesting book there about Kipling’s mother and her three sisters who were also associated with famous men. One of these – Georgiana – has since featured in another visit as she was a regular visitor at Red House with her husband Edward Burne-Jones. Certainly, the Pre-Raphaelites ought to be next in my educational reading following the Red House visit.
As usual, the winter closures means that it may be a few months before I can strike out on my next trip. The plan is also to take a holiday abroad next year so I may not be able to squeeze in two full weeks of visiting as I did this year. However, I already have a couple of Cambridgeshire properties in the diary for a weekend visit in April so hopefully the progress will continue. As soon as the new Handbook arrives, I will do the usual housekeeping on the list to make sure that all entries are still valid and to add anything new that might come up. In the meantime, Happy New Year!
The new handbook has arrived so I have done the usual read-through to figure out if there are any changes to be made to the list. I have removed four properties: one of which has sadly closed, one of which has been incorporated into an existing property, one of which I actually ticked off this year but didn’t realise was on the list so I did it as an extra at the end of another entry(!) and one of which probably shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place as it is only available to visit by arrangement with the tenant.
However, to counteract the four losses, there are no fewer than nine additions! Just when I thought I was making good progress. Still, I’m sure they’ll all be interesting additions to the challenge. I have added them for various reasons: some have been given a larger entry in the handbook as the Trust expands opening times for some of its lesser properties, while I have added Morden Hall Park as it seems that the rose garden has been a key focus and although the property is not yet designated as such, this brings it into the ‘gardens’ category as far as I am concerned. Stoneywell in Leicestershire is a completely new property in the portfolio (and oddly enough the very first in Leicesterhire). This is being opened by pre-booked, timed ticket only this year as demand is expected to be high so I will probably save it for a later year when it will be easier to visit.
So, with 4 out and 9 in, this takes the total to 263 of which I have so far ticked off 56. Still a long way to go!