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The mill, the rake and the mouse

October 18, 2014

This week, Mark’s been on holiday from work so we’ve had several trips out, walking and visiting various places.

On Tuesday, we were incredibly lucky with the weather and had a lovely walk in the autumnal sunshine around Flatford Mill, taking in Constable country.  When we first walked past the famous mill scene, all looked so calm and lovely and it was easy to imagine Johnny Constable with his sketchbook in hand:

But then, after our 1st walk around the fields full of cliché ridden grazing sheep (cute and fluffy, all the same), we walked around the back of the mill thinking we would have a walk across the Dedham Vale, only to find a lot of it under water and bullocks having a paddle.  There had been a lot of rain and, to compound the problem, the National Trust are in the process of renewing the lock gates.  The sky was also pretty Constable-esque:

On Thursday, being relatively confident that we should have another fine day (we believed the weather forecast –  you have to live dangerously) and wanting to get our moneys worth from our annual National Trust memberships (we are from Yorkshire, don’t forget), we planned to visit a couple of National Trust houses in Suffolk.  We started out at Ickworth, which is an incredibly imposing place with a lovely park (picture from the National Trust site):

Explore the orangery and unusual rotunda which dominates the the house © Rupert Truman

We arrived before the house was open so decided to do the 4 mile walk through the park and woods.  It is a lovely walk, but was a little muddy – especially in the woods.  It also felt like more than 4 miles but as we didn’t track it, I can’t say for sure – maybe we were just slow sliding through the mud.  This photograph of the rotunda was taken from the woods we were walking through, across the park.

Sadly, by the time we finished the walk, I was splattered with mud, a bit over heated and looked like a tramp – just the time to join lots of clean tourists for a look around the house!   I have to say that I wasn’t that taken with the house – can’t really put my finger on why specifically – perhaps because it was built to be a showpiece by the Hervey family, rather than a home (they lived in the east wing and just displayed their treasures here).  I would have liked to have had a little more about the infamous Lord Hervey, Georgian rake and lover of Stephen Fox.  I read and thoroughly enjoyed Lucy Moore’s biography of him (Amphibious Thing: The Life of Lord Hervey) some years ago, but he didn’t really feature at the house – perhaps they’re trying to live down his inflated reputation!

One thing I did enjoy inside was that we were just in time to see a couple of costumes on display from the ‘Connecting Threads’ exhibition, which ends at the beginning of November.  This is a lovely 30s bias cut evening dress in gold.  The bias cutting is mind boggling!

This beautiful jewel encrusted dress from the House of Worth was from an earlier age, but just as lovely:

We then moved on to our second house of the day – Melford Hall at Long Melford.  This was a truly lovely place and one we will certainly return to.

It started life as a monastic hunting estate and was visited by Elizabeth I in 1578.  After being sacked during the civil war, it was requisitioned during World War 2 and the north wing was burnt down in 1942.  The Hyde Parkers, who still live in the house, brought it back to life and their famous cousin Beatrix Potter visited them there.  She would bring a menagerie of animals with her, who stayed in a little turret room, just off her usual bedroom, the ‘West Bedroom’ (photograph from the National Trust site):

Melford's West Bedroom where Beatrix would have slept

The original Jemima Puddleduck stuffed toy is on display and I admit that my heart leapt a little when I saw it, even though it is being displayed in a little room that has been made up as a mock nursery rather than the ‘real’ one.  There are also a number of Miss Potter’s watercolours of the house and several of her well known animal characters.  Unfortunately, these are all displayed in a corridor near her bedroom, which isn’t the ideal place to view them… This one (again from the National Trust’s site) is a self-portrait she drew to amuse her little cousins – she was said to do nothing but sleep when she visited:

Beatrix Potter's Sleeping Mouse

This little picture hangs in the actual bedroom she used.  The bed hangings at the time were obviously also a yellow silk, like the ones that the National Trust have there today.

I think my absolute favourites were these lovely little place settings on a dining table.  The way they are set out on the table makes it look as though Beatrix has just that moment walked by and placed them there, to amuse her cousins when they come in to eat – so much nicer than seeing them in a glass case 🙂





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  • Reply greenrabbitdesigns October 18, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Awe your photos are just like Constable paintings Debbie…beautiful!
    Such exquisite dresses too but my very favourite things are the little Beatrix Potter paintings, so sweet, I wish they were mine! 🙂
    V x

    • Reply crimson October 18, 2014 at 10:19 pm

      Thanks Viv xxx Of course they are Mark’s photographs – but I AM the art director… 😉

      Aren’t the little place card settings gorgeous? Of course, you could easily make these by printing out some illustrations onto a card and adding your own little touches. Would be great for Christmas maybe and have them in those little bauble stands (like these: OMG – you could have a whole Beatrix Potter themed Christmas dinner! In fact, so could I – LOL!

  • Reply karen October 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    what a fun outing and worth the mud 🙂 I love seeing period costumes and clothing in historical houses. Two years ago in Portsmouth, NH we saw some incredible displays. Our weather has been cool and gray. I would not mind one bit for a ray or two of sunshine 🙂

    • Reply crimson October 21, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Hi Karen – lovely to see you here 🙂 We have had all kinds of high winds and rain here today, but one drop of sunshine can change it all in a moment – love that about the autumn.

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