Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Rolling back the years at Ightham Mote
It's distressing that after just two days of work it's already sunk in that this is reality and my trip to England is becoming fuzzy around the edges. I haven't even resorted to my old trick of driving on the left hand side yet and yelling and gesticulating at drivers who are heading straight toward me; you see I would have said towards just a couple of weeks ago.
So it's probably important to write some of this down before it become a dust covered dream.
On my second day in England I headed to Ightham Mote with los parentes. This is a large 14th century National Trust property in Kent set in pleasant grounds as National Trust properties tend to be.
It wasn't far from los parentes' home. My dad has an aversion to driving far these days. When I mentioned a desire to visit Dover, which is about an hour away, he came over all alarmed as if I'd suggested the third moon of Jupiter - go to the kebab shop and turn left mate by the big orbiting
On the way to Ightham Mote my mother was up to her old tricks of convicing my dad he had gone past the entrance even though it was obvious to me she was referring to someone's driveway and I had spied a brown sign pointing down the main road anyway.
I kept quiet and viewed the psychological battle unfold as her persistence started to sew deep doubts into his mind. Fortunately the real entrance suddenly appeared in the hedgerow before we did an embarrassing u-turn and headed for the driveway of 202 Long Lane.
Ightham Mote is a beautiful property. The only thing that's older around these parts are the volunteer National Trust guides who stare icily at visitors to these places. Inevitably dressed in tweeds they are usually former Army colonels or other well to do types from the shires who view the great unwashed with disdain.
It makes one tempted to American it up. "Gee dude this place is old. Is it more than 100 years?"
But while my friends in England told me I had gained some American inflections (they mistakenly believed I was hamming it up), I still can't do American very convincingly.
The guides and volunteers are usually so old they appear to personally know most of the family members with their stiff powdered wigs in the dark 17th century portraits that adorn the walls.
Ightham Mote boasts an interesting history including a tower bedroom where Henry James stayed.
After one of the guides had fixed his falcon eye on us and berated us for visiting the last room first, all the while tottering on his cane, we headed into the gardens to check out azaleas and the like. I don't really do flowers but they can make for good pictures.
It was enjoyable enough but I can't be bothered to recount all of the details so here's the National Trust blurb and some of the photos I took.
Lose yourself in this romantic moated manor house, described by David Starkey as 'one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses'. Built nearly 700 years ago, this house has seen many changes and been owned by medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians. Highlights include the picturesque courtyard, Great Hall, crypt, Tudor painted ceiling, Grade I listed dog kennel and the private apartments of Charles Henry Robinson, who gave Ightham Mote to the National Trust in 1985. The building is surrounded by peaceful gardens with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks. Note: very steep slope from reception (lower drop-off point available).
The slope really wasn't the north face of the Eiger but it's probably tough for some of those 420-year-old guides.