I ticked off a total of 24 properties in 2016, taking my total to just over 100, which was a major milestone… even if it is still not even halfway to my final target! There are over 160 left, although I don’t yet have the 2017 handbook so total numbers may change slightly when that arrives.
As usual, there was huge variety in my visits, from the expected, i.e. stately homes, castles and gardens, to the rather more unexpected, which included a Roman villa, a workhouse, a wharf, a painted chapel, a half-built Elizabethan building and a time capsule inside a house. I also met a lot of interesting volunteers and guides during my travels and stopped for some long conversations here and there along the way. I also want to give a particular shout out to Chedworth Roman Villa, Cliveden and The Workhouse at Southwell, which offered particularly good introductory talks and guided tours. I even got to go on another boat trip, this time along the River Wey Navigation around Guildford. Woolbeding Gardens in Sussex was an unexpected gem and one of my highlights of the year – it may require a little more effort to arrange a visit but delivers more than ample reward. Meanwhile, the prize for the most surreal of experiences is perhaps a tie between Lyveden New Bield’s unfinished manor house and the frozen-in-time Mr Straw’s House in Worksop.
I made it further north in 2016 than I did in 2015, but only as far as the aforementioned Worksop in Nottinghamshire. For my most southerly property, I had to resort to Google with its latitudinal statistics as Lamb House in Rye is only marginally further south than Uppark. The Elizabethan House Museum in Great Yarmouth was an easier calculation as it is actually the furthest east I will ever get during the entire challenge. I didn’t get into Wales or the West Country at all this year so the furthest west I reached was Chedworth Roman Villa in the Cotswolds.
I covered a lot of different counties again – 14 in total – including Lincolnshire (4 properties), Nottinghamshire (3), West Sussex (2), Hampshire (2), Kent (2), Warwickshire (2), Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire, East Sussex, Gloucestershire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. I also ticked off another property located in Greater London.
My education also continues and I picked up a few biographies along the way, including A Strange Eventful History about the lives of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, England’s Mistress about Emma Hamilton, a life of Newton, and The Mistresses of Cliveden looking at the lives of five fascinating women who lived there over the years. I had already read the novel Year of Wonders a few years ago, but I thought I’d mention it here as I would recommend it to anyone interested in visiting Eyam Hall and taking a ‘plague’ tour of the village.
And so on to 2017. I have no definite visits lined up as yet, but I’ve got a few ideas as to which corners of the UK I will try to head for this year. The locally accessible properties are becoming fewer in number as I work my way through them so I may try to take a couple of weeks away this year in order to reach further afield. As of now, its 102 down and 164 to go, but I will update that number as soon as the new handbook drops through the letterbox.
The only addition to my list this year appears to be the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, which has been changed to a Building and/or Gardens entry in the handbook, perhaps due to improvements to the visitor centre? I’m not unhappy about this at all; although I’ve already visited the Causeway in the past, it’s certainly worth seeing again and I don’t really remember much about the visitor centre so hopefully I can make more of my next visit, whenever that might be!
Another change is the removal of the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. This used to be open for tours fairly regularly but it appears that there is just one weekend this year during which tours are available so it no longer meets my criteria and comes off the list. This also means that I’ve completed Suffolk with no extra effort required! That’s the fourth completed county (after Cumbria, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire).
So, with one in and one out, the list remains on 266 in total, 102 done and 164 to go. I’m really hoping I can hit the halfway milestone this year.