2015: In Summary

My numbers for 2015 weren’t quite as high as in the two previous years and I ticked off only 22 properties, compared with 24 in 2013 and 32 in 2014. However, when I was offered the chance to go to Iceland in May, the planned week in and around Lincolnshire was immediately put on the backburner. This set me back about 7 or 8 properties but Iceland was absolutely amazing, so there are certainly no regrets here.

My 22 visits still offered a lot of different experiences. There were plenty of stately homes and gardens as you might expect, but I also visited a tin works, a mill, an old post office, a barn, a farm and even a glorified picnic shelter in the form of a striking white rotunda. And, as ever, the stately homes and gardens all had their own unique highlights, whether it was in the sights they offered or the characters that shaped and occupied them. There were so many beautiful and impressive sights over the year, but if I had to pick one place that made a particularly strong impression, it would probably be Anglesey Abbey’s truly stunning Winter Garden (in the spring!) with the polished white trunks of the silver birches standing out against the bright pink of the dwarf tulips planted beneath.

I maybe didn’t travel as far afield this year as in previous years and Anglesey Abbey was actually the most northerly of my visits. However, I did make a proper start on the far south west, getting as far west as Trerice in Cornwall. This trip also included my most southerly property for the year, which was Saltram in Devon, while furthest east was the Grange Barn in Coggeshall (just a tad further east than Paycocke’s House & Garden, which is also in the same Essex village!).

As far as counties go, I covered Cornwall (6 visits), Devon (2), Essex (2), Cambridgeshire (2), Monmouthshire (2), West Sussex (1), Kent (1), Herefordshire (1), Pembrokeshire (1), Buckinghamshire (1) and Surrey (1). I also ticked off one property in Greater London and one in Neath Port Talbot (formerly part of Glamorgan).

As I mentioned in last year’s summary, the trip to Red House at the end of 2014 sparked some interest in the pre-Raphaelites so I started 2015 with a visit to Standen, another Arts & Crafts house designed by Philip Webb and with William Morris interiors, and bought a couple of books for some further reading on the subject. I also read a (hefty!) biography of Nelson after following his footsteps to The Kymin in Monmouthshire, and continued the nautical theme with a biography of Sir Francis Drake, bought from the shop at Buckland Abbey, one of his former homes. So, horizons suitably expanded, I now look forward to who and what will interest me most in 2016. As ever, I will add to this entry at a later date once the Handbook lands on my doormat and I get to grips with any changes I need to make to the list. For now, though, it’s 78 done and 185 to go!

Housekeeping 2015-2016

The new Handbook for 2016 has arrived so it’s time to sort out my list again. The new layout is supposed to make it easier to find things as it is in smaller sections with a more limited range. I had got quite used to the traditional sections, though, so while it’s nice to have a separate Cornwall chapter, for example, there was a bit of cursing as I worked through it and tried to pin down where some of the smaller counties have disappeared to! Another change is that Houses & Gardens has been altered to Buildings & Gardens, which is perhaps more appropriate considering the mills, castles and occasional follies that feature.

As ever, there are a few changes that will mean alterations to the list. First of all, there seem to be quite a few minor changes to property names as descriptions are edited to give a better idea of what each one offers. These are generally very minor, though, so I’ve decided not to nitpick and change everything on the list to the new wording, I’ll just make sure the latest description is given when I visit each one.

There are also some additions and removals that are more significant. The removals all involved places I have already been, however, so they don’t bring the numbers down at all! Hailes Abbey, which is managed by English Heritage, has disappeared from the handbook completely but still appears to be on the Trust’s website so I’m not sure what has happened there. Still, it’s already ticked off so it won’t affect me. Meanwhile, Lodge Park with its grandstand has been switched from Houses & Gardens to an entry point to Coast & Countryside, as has Hadrian’s Wall and Housesteads Fort. The former I have already done and I have decided to leave the latter on the list as I’ve never been to the Wall and think it will be an interesting visit. Besides, the Fort used to be a building even if it isn’t such an obvious one now! The last removal is a sad one as it is Clandon Park, just up to the road from me in Surrey, which suffered a devastating fire in the spring. The Trust has recently announced that it is to be rebuilt but it will be a long time before it is restored. Fortunately, I had already visited for the blog, but I look forward to going back sometime in the future to see it reincarnated.

So, none of the removals will affect my overall total. As far as additions are concerned, Leith Hill Tower and Leith Hill Place are now two separate entries, but I have already done them as one so that won’t change my numbers either. Morden Hall Park has been moved into the Buildings & Gardens section, but I had already chosen to do it as such anyway, so that’s ticked off too. However, the River Wey & Godalming Navigation and Dapdune Wharf in Surrey has also shifted across to the Buildings & Gardens section so that’s being added to the list, while further additions include Nether Alderley Mill in Cheshire and Dorneywood Garden in Buckinghamshire, which looks as though it is now open often enough to justify inclusion (and I’m curious about having a nosy at George Osborne’s house!).

As usual, there was a lot of juggling involved in establishing what is in and what is out as I head into 2016 but when it all comes down to it, there are simply 3 additions to be made this year, taking my total number to 266. So, 78 done, 188 to go.

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