With the Magnolias and Cherry blossoms in full bloom, England starts to look very attractive now. Winter’s short, dark days are chased away by the summer’s sun that lingers on endlessly like the last guest at a party. Book festivals and art fairs are around the corner, Mara-thon runners are warming up.
Visitors arrive, like snowbirds escaping the heat from southern climes and settle into London. The English countryside is close at hand, its rolling fields beckon with yellow daffodils and blue crocuses. A weekend exploring the villages of the Cotswolds, driving through Dorset or trekking in Exmoor hugely complements the city stay. Whatley Manor, Barnsley House, Stoke Park, Cowley Manor and the newly opened Dewsall Country Estate are some of the lovely small hotels where one can enjoy a stay within a two hour drive of London. We enjoyed a weekend with a group of friends at a very special country home.
The tree lined driveway to Tyringham Hall in Buckinghamshire revealed a heard of red deer grazing nonchalantly, raising their impressive antlers every now and then. A jewel of a home was visible just past the wrought iron gates. Built in 1792 by Sir John Soane with additions a hundred and twenty years later by Sir Edward Lutyens, it is now owned by businessman Anton Bilton. The drawing rooms and dining room are impressive and cosy at the same time. Mr Bilton’s collection of classic and contemporary art enlivens the décor. A special event was marked in the magnificent surroundings, and we were spoilt by butlers and under-butlers. The twenty-four rooms are individually decorated following a colour theme such as Blue Toile, Red Moroccan and Yellow Peril. Lined with wall-paper and four-poster beds, the rooms were truly charming.
Follies and Hahas
The fifty acres of estate beckoned through the enormous windows, with pools, water-bodies and Italienate loggias. Howard, the head gardener is also a historian who walked us around the gardens and took us into the passionately restored Lutyens structure, the Bath Pavilion Temple of Music. Lutyens is said to have worked on several projects in the Temple of Music around the same time that he was working on Delhi’s master-plan.
With the arrival of spring, flowering trees were in bud, the rose garden was set to bloom. Howard showed us several features typical of English gardens such as white-painted dovecotes, a “ha-ha,” a virtually invisible, waterless moat that prevents cattle from straying too close to the house, a walled garden intended to protect the vegetables and fruits, not just from winds but also from thieves and animals.
More about the place
When to visit: April to enjoy the blossoms, May to August for pleasant temperatures and long days.
Statelt affairs: This company helps find stately homes for weekends and private rentals. www.statelyaffair.com
Places to stay: Whatley Manor, Barnsley House, Stoke Park, Cowley Manor and Tyringham Hall.
More about Tyringham Hall: It is located near the town of Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire and can be rented via Stately Affair. This unique privately owned home has 32 bedrooms.
What to do: Get involved in activities like shooting, fishing and golf. Enjoy the picnic on a secluded beach around a roaring bonfire.