Mrs Hudson walks off the Pudding

xmas 1My favourite bit of Christmas is just after the Festival is over:  the fridge is full, the fire is lit and family and visitors all come to call.  Walpole the dog loves Christmas too because the family are home and nothing suits a dog better than being at the centre of the pack.  At this time of year, we need walks to shake down all that Christmas pudding and fresh air to blow away the excess.  Here are some of my best ideas for winter walks.

Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent

The gardens at Hever are magical in the winter.  The bark of the redwoods is glowing, the topiary looks marvellous when it snows and the walk around the lake is the perfect length for someone who has been overeating.   This year you can make a wish for the coming year on a thoughtfully provided tag and tie it to the Wishing Tree; you have a chance to make a donation to the Make a Wish Foundation too, so spread your wellbeing around a bit.

Lowther Castle Gardens, Penrith, Cumbria

See the gardens at Lowther gradually emerging as the restoration continues, revealing one of Britain’s great lost gardens piece by piece.  The frosts of winter outline the bones of the Japanese Garden and Rock Garden as the undergrowth dies back and the glories of the views to the Lakeland Fells are hard to beat on a clear day.  Winter is a great time to spot the abundant wildlife at Lowther too.  Warm up afterwards with soups and warming casseroles in the café.

Tatton Park, Cheshire

The Japanese Garden at Tatton Park has extraordinary silhouettes on frosty days too.  If you still have the energy, there are 2,000 acres of deer park to roam and if you don’t want to overdo it after your festive excess then you can retreat into the newly restored Conservatory or the heated Fernery for some shelter and unusual plants.xmas 2

Holkham Hall, Norfolk

Holkham is distinct among great estates for having its own beach on the stunning North Norfolk coast and there are few better places for a good blast.  The Beach Café won an award from the Kennel Club this year for the warm welcome they extend to man’s best friend so if you have succeeded in wearing out your Walpole and shedding a few pounds into the bargain you can put them back on again with cake & hot chocolate around the woodburner while the dog dozes at your feet.

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

Take another bracing walk to finish at another atmospheric Beach Café along the South West Coast Path in North Cornwall at Tintagel where English Heritage are busy building a new bridge to link the Beach Café with the visitor centre.  There’s already a bridge to take you across to the castle ruins on their rocky island and a winter walk here will really blow the cobwebs away.  If you’ve had a good Christmas, you can ponder on the Earls of Cornwall wassailing their way through the 12 days of Christmas here in truly Arthurian style.

The Savill Garden, Berkshire

The gardens at the heart of Windsor Great Park are a place where royalty have walked off their Christmas feasts in the past and now you can too.  The poinsettias in the Temperate House will keep the Christmas cheer alive but the bright Mahonias flowering outside are the first glimpse of Spring.  Best of all are the colourful stems of the dogwoods here and in the woodland Valley Gardens.  In all you can walk 1000 acres so it’s a great place to start your New Year’s resolutions.

 

So wherever you are this festive season, get out and keep in shape with a walk through historic gardens and landscapes.  Check opening times before you go, most places that open throughout the year are closed on Christmas Day and some on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day too. 

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The shortlist for the 2016 Hudson’s Heritage Awards has been announced!

Hudson's Heritage Awards Logo 2016The shortlist for the renowned 2016 Hudson’s Heritage Awards, celebrating the best visitor experiences at heritage attractions in the UK, has been announced. Established in 2011, the awards are an independent scheme judged by an expert panel chaired by Norman Hudson, OBE. The winners and the highly commended will be presented at Goldsmith’s Hall in London on 1st March 2016.

Best Family Day OutBestFamilyDayOutSBT Processed

  • Chester Cathedral, Chester
  • Newby Hall, North Yorkshire
  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon
  • The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

Best Eating Out

  • Glansevern Gardens, Mid Wales
  • Northern Ireland Assembley, Belfast
  • Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye
  • Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

The Best ShoppingBestShoppingCotehele Processed

  • Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts Centre, Cumbria
  • Dartington Hall, Devon
  • The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire
  • Cotehele, Cornwall

Best Accommodation

  • Leeds Castle, Leeds
  • Bruisyard Hall, Suffolk
  • The Churches Conservation Trust
  • Frampton Court, Gloucester

Best Loos

  • The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland
  • Lowther Castle, Cumbria

Best New DiscoveryBestNewDiscoveryBletchleyPark Processed

  • Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes
  • The Judge’s Lodging, Presteigne
  • Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Bedford

Best Innovation

  • Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire
  • Attingham Park, Shropshire
  • Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
  • Croome Park, Worcester
  • Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Bedford

Best Wedding VenueBestWeddingVenueChiddingstoneCastle

  • Wentworth Conservatory, Barnsley
  • Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
  • Chiddingstone Castle, Kent
  • Combermere Abbey, Shropshire

Best Event/Exhibition

  • Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester
  • The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland
  • Houghton Hall, Norfolk
  • Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
  • Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Bedford

Best Hidden GemBestHiddenGemStMarys Processed

  • Winterbourne House & Gardens, Birmingham
  • Keats House, London
  • Painshill Gardens, The Crystal Grotto, Surrey
  • St Mary’s House & Garden, West Sussex

The Best Picnic Spot award is the only award which is by public nomination. The nominated lunchtime locations are:

  • Lowther Castle, Cumbria
  • Clearburn New Lanark, Lanarkshire, Scotland
  • Durham Cathedral Woodlands, Durham

Congratulations to all those shortlisted!

Mrs Hudson’s Landmark Weekend

It is 50 years since Sir John Smith had a great idea.  In 1965 he realised that if he could convert Britain’s rash of crazy and eccentric historic buildings for holiday makers in search of something out of the ordinary, he could not just rescue some special historic places which were crumbling away but give lots of us a chance to stay in our own little bit of history.  The idea worked and the Landmark Trust was born. Landmark buildings are just up my street and a weekend spent in one is something you never quite forget. I have great memories of Wortham Manor  in Devon, one of Landmark’s biggest (sleeps 15) but I think the best are the really tiny ones where ingenuity has been at work squeezing bathrooms and modern comforts into impossible spaces.  So I’m planning a weekend for 2 and you can help me decide where to go.

That bathroom challenge is best expressed at Swarkestone Pavilion in Derbyshire, a Tudor gem with just one room where you have to slip in the dawn across the roof to reach the bathroom in the turret but so worth it for the views.  Or St Winifred’s Well in Shropshire; one of Landmark’s oldest houses, a timbered medieval chapel which has hovered above its a sacred pool since the 1480s. The place is so tiny that you have to pop outside to reach the bathroom but it’s blissfully remote, like so many Landmarks, so no one is likely to spot you and St Winifred would be sympathetic; she was one of those holy virgins who was martyred by a rejected suitor.

Clavell

Clavell Tower

I’ve always thought that a night in a Landmark was the best possible start to a marriage so for honeymooners, I’d go for romance. Clavell Tower on the cliffs in Devon, where Thomas Hardy courted his first love would be a
good choice with its unmatched views up and down the Jurassic coast.  The Chateau in Lincolnshire would be hard to beat, a little French treasure where you can pose as Marie-Antoinette in miniature. Or Lynch Lodge near Peterborough, just the front porch of a house visited by the poet Dryden.

The ones I love the best are the really mad ones.  How about The Pigsty?  This pedimented columned classical building must always have bred particularly cultured pigs and now it is perfectly evolved into a cottage for two.  If rabbits are more your thing, you can stay in The Warren House, a perfect little lodge built for two 17th century rabbit keepers which still looks down to Kimbolton Castle where the rabbits would have been gobbled up.

Towers are fun and many are Landmarks. Convenient for the village, Peter’s Tower in Devon overlooks the estuary of the Exe and just fits bath, kitchen and bunkbeds for two (the clock takes up almost all the space).  At The Prospect Tower in Kent there is space for a double bed, the rooms are all circular and the views are of wooded countryside and the Victorian cricket pitch.

Queen Anne's Summerhouse

Queen Anne’s Summerhouse

Getting away from it all is part of the delight of a Landmark weekend, so Walpole the dog will particularly enjoy the many opportunities to hide away in the woods.  The Bath House in Somerset is one of the loveliest, tucked
into a glade in the Forest of Arden, and decked out inside with swags of gilded shells.  On the Shuttleworth Estate in Bedfordshire is Queen Anne’s
Summerhouse
, at the junction of radiating avenues of mature trees with warm red bricks aglow against the green, there is plenty of space to explore.

Glenmalloch

Glenmalloch Lodge

I could go to Scotland – Glenmalloch Lodge in Dumfriesshire, a Victorian schoolhouse in open countryside – or Wales, remote Ty Uchaf, an ancient farm dwelling – or London, Sir John Betjeman’s Georgian house at 43 Cloth Fair in Smithfield sleeps two – but I think I shall plump for The Ruin at Hackfall. Something about contrast between the exquisite gothic banqueting house that faces inwards and the purposely ruined Romanesque folly that faces the view across North Yorkshire suits my personality.  Or maybe it’s that slight Landmark craziness that means you have to flit out and across the terrace to get from bedroom to sitting room to bathroom that I just can’t resist.

Contact The Landmark Trust www.landmarktrust.org.uk for details and bookings.  Some Landmark Trust buildings can be visited at set times, see www.hudsonsheritage.com

Mrs Hudson’s Best Baristas

There’s something special about early autumn – the kids are back at school, Christmas is months away, holidays are over but the sun is still shining.  It’s the best time to get back in touch and meet up with friends for chats over coffee.  But forget the high street, seek out some atmosphere at historic places with cosy cafés and a good understanding of the brew.

Want an atmosphere that’s modern and bright?  If you’re in Scotland here are two great choices: In the West, the new Visitor Centre at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, about an hour from Glasgow serves coffee with cakes and sandwiches in a flower filled ambience to give you the perfect start before a walk through the policies down to the Firth of Clyde.

1808-Angus Bremner flattened

                 Abbotsford

Further East, Ochiltree’s Restaurant at Abbotsford in the Borders gets its beans from pioneering Glasgow coffee traders, Matthew Algie.  Their blend is named after Mary Kingsley, whose explorations of West Africa in the 1890s changed attitudes towards African cultures.  The fruity Kingsley Blend mixes beans from Ethiopia, DR Congo and Sumatra. The views of Sir Walter Scott’s house from the  windows are magnificent too.

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                 The Alnwick Garden

South of the border, coffee among the leaves at The Alnwick Garden Treehouse in Northumberland is a colourful experience in the Autumn but watch out for falling leaves in your steaming mug!  With coffee or hot drinks from the Potting Shed café, you can sit outside while the young and energetic bounce round the wobbly rope bridges or sit inside at tree trunk tables.

Across the country in Cumbria, a proper cup of Italian coffee is waiting for you at Askham Hall where the quirky Kitchen Garden café is tucked away but cosy around the wood burning stove on a chilly morning.  If you are lucky they will be firing up the outdoor pizza oven to tempt you to stay for lunch as well.

There’s a wide range of coffees to choose from at Croome in Worcestershire.  Here the 1940s style café is in reclaimed RAF huts from World War 2 and a touch of authenticity adds to the atmosphere.  Cakes here can be gluten free if that is what you are looking for and your small companions can have a Babycino – frothy hot milk to you and me – to warm them up on a cool autumn day.

Chatsworth-in-spring_Hudsons-slider

                  Chatsworth

It’s not surprising to find that they are fussy about a good cup of coffee at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee beans are specially selected and freshly roasted by Coopers Coffee of Huddersfield and served for you in the Farm Shop café                                                             with wonderful views over the park.

Heading East again, round off an energetic walk in the park at handsome Hylands House near Chelmsford with coffee in the Courtyard Café or if you have been dogwalking you can always sit outdoors in the Patio café and enjoy water for your pooch as well.

Just off the A1, the baristas at the Woodland Café at Moggerhanger Park in Bedfordshire serve coffee in a restored parkland building just near the woodlands and playground in the corner of the walled garden.  Just the spot after a walk in the woods.

Chichester Cathedral The Historic Cloisters

           Chichester Cathedral

Down South, the Cloisters Café at Chichester Cathedral is worth a visit.  With your coffee you not only get a stunning view of the private gardens and cathedral tower but, if you are lucky, the chance of seeing one of the resident peregrine falcons diving on a passing pigeon.

Brave the wind for an autumn beach walk in Cornwall at Tintagel Castle’s secluded bay and finish with a cup of coffee in the sheltered Beach Café.  A great way to enjoy the last of the summer sunshine and it just might be warm enough to paddle.

Mrs Hudson goes to a Heritage Open Day

Mrs H & WalpoolI’m nosy. I confess.  It’s one of the reasons why I love visiting historic buildings.  I like to see first hand where people lived and how; take a step into people’s lives from the past where things actually happened.

Victorian costume at Arlington Court

My favourite weekend of the year has to be the annual Heritage Open Day weekend.  This year it runs from 10 to 13 September and gives you a chance to be nosy for free.  Lots of places that you cannot normally visit will be open and lots more will have special talks and activities to help you learn more.  Some places regularly open to the public will be prepared to show you things behind the scenes that you wouldn’t normally get to see.  Have you always wondered what that grand old house in the centre of your town was like inside?  Have you always wanted to climb that tower or find out what that pile of old stones used to be?  Have you always meant to visit a country house near you but never got round to it?  This is your chance a you should know that you won’t be alone.  This is England’s biggest heritage festival; last year 3 million other people took that chance too.

Filming at Horningsea Church

Of course if you live in or near one of England’s many historic towns you will probably be already planning your visits.  Take Cambridge , here 4 days will never be enough.  All sorts of buildings are open for Heritage Open Days from the award winning modern splendour of the Sainsbury Laboratory to the Victorian Workhouse.  You can visit churches, a mosque, libraries and college gardens aplenty, museums, art galleries, burial grounds and sports clubs.  You can see inside the Senate House, the Council Chamber, the Fire Station, the ADC theatre, John Lewis and the Cambridge University Press.  You can choose any one of 5 talks or 9 guided walks.  My personal favourite will be to see inside Brooklands, the country home of the Foster family, prominent citizens of Cambridge in the early 19th century, architectural patrons and owners of 3 mills and a bank. Brooklands is opened by Historic England, whose offices these are.

Dunston Staiths

Not all of us are so lucky but don’t underestimate your area’s historic treasures.  Look at Consett in County Durham, better known for coal and steel and industrial decline.  There are three walks to choose from just up the road in Shotley Bridge, each exploring the people and places of the area or join a guide for information and a chance to find out why this was once the swordmaking capital of Britain. Learn about sportsmen, musicians and soap stars from the area and admire the old mills and workers’ cottages as well as a fine classical church by Newcastle architect, John Dobson.

Elizabethan House Garden

This year’s Heritage Open Days is all about the new, with a fantastic array of new events and openings and a new partnership with RIBA’s ‘Love Architecture’ campaign.  Highlights nationally include opportunities to a peek into the British Film Institute’s National Archive, discover the history of the Dambusters, learn to Lindy Hop at vibrant vintage fairs or hear Jane Austen’s Emma read in one of the locations featured in the novel.  Thanks to new funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, along with support from Historic England and the National Trust, Heritage Open Days is bigger than ever

There’ll be 40,000 volunteers helping out by guiding, sharing knowledge, leading activities and brewing tea.  So check the HOD website to see which of the 4.600 places that are opening are near you and be nosy, just like me.  Look out for the Heritage Open Day bright pink bunting all over the place from Cambridge to Consett, Bath to Barrow or Wells to Wigan from 10 to 13th September.  And did I mention that all these visits can be made for free?

Go to www.heritageopendays.org.uk to find places near you and for full details.