Given that I live in a city, getting out into the country tends to be a rarity for me now, but if I have a spare day, I love to travel out into the green and pleasant lands of the nearby Cheshire, Yorkshire or Derbyshire. Recently we drove to the beautiful Lyme Park in Cheshire for a day surrounding ourselves in the beautiful and opulent surroundings. Built of rose-tinted stone and dominated by a large classical pedimented portico, with the large lead figures of Venus, Neptune and Pan astride, this is a grand imposing building. The land of Lyme was won for the Legh family in 1346 on the battlefields of Agincourt, and Lyme remained the home of the Leghs for 600 years, before passing to the National Trust. Any avid Pride & Prejudice fans may also recognise Lyme Park as the home of the swoon-worthy Mr Darcy.
Unfortunately an American media company had decided that we needed to have a reincarnation of the fictional heart throb, with a larger than life statue emerging from the lake in front of the house.I think it did actually have a fairly good likeness to Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy, but nevertheless, it was rather odd, and I don’t think that it particularly enriched the view! Apparently it’s only a temporary installation that the National Trust have been forced to accept, and won’t be there on an ongoing basis. Aside from this slightly bizarre modern intrusion, the rest of the gardens were gorgeous. The present layout and planting of the garden is essentially Victorian, with large expanses of lushious green grass, a gentle stream feeding the beautifully tranquil lake, and a series of formal walled gardens, filled with vibrant flowers. The Orangery had been beautifully restored and was wonderfully peaceful, with the gently trickling fountain and delicate flowers. When I was little (well, littler than I am now!), whenever we visited National Trust houses, my parents always bought me the children’s guide book, which I would read aloud to the rest of the family, steering us round the property, sharing interesting facts and searching for any notable decorative features of the rooms. In time-honoured tradition, I again took control of the guidebook for our tour of Lyme Park. I love learning about the history of an old house and the lives of the people who lived there. These must have been extraordinary families to be able to call somewhere like this their home and live in such splendour.
On a more girly note, the family portraits are always brilliant to see the changing fashions through the ages.
Another thing that always blows my mind is how these massive places used to run without all of the modern conveniences of electricity and heating that we have today. They must have seemed very cold and dark in the winter when lit just by candle light and heated from the fireside. The sheer size of these houses is phenomenal and at times it can be hard to conceive that this was once somebody’s home, rather than the museum piece that it is today. These houses must have required a very large army of staff to maintain, from the estate manager, to the kitchen staff, to the footmen, to the gardeners.
Wandering around the stunning house and gardens, I try to imagine what it must have been like to have lived here, although I think that my glamourous Grandma would have made a much better lady of the manor than I would have! If you’re in the area, I’d really recommend paying a visit as you can spend all day walking around the wonderful park land, admiring the pretty gardens and gawping at the elaborate interiors. We ended up being super lucky with the weather on our visit, but we needn’t have worried, as the National Trust had a stash of cheeky umbrellas for any visitors at risk of getting wet!