Wednesday, July 18, 2012
In Baronial Splendor
Dave and I are back from Kent, scrambling to get our laundry done and give the house a last-minute touch-up before the arrival of his parents today. Our adventure in rural England went well -- Dave managed to squeeze exceptional musical performances from his students in just under a week, and I got my fill of woods-wandering and wildflowers.
These photos show where we stayed -- the Benenden School, a girls' school of which Princess Anne is reportedly an alumnus. (Though Benenden physically hosted the music program, it's organized by Kent Music, which is affiliated with local government.) The school is housed partly in a Victorian mansion built on the site of a homestead dating back to the Middle Ages.
It had extensive gardens punctuated by intriguing statuary, and beyond them, acres and acres of green parkland, pastures and forests criss-crossed with walking trails.
This was the view from the terrace overlooking that parkland.
The oldest parts of the mansion were like something out of Brideshead Revisited -- grand staircases, stained glass, high ceilings, plaster friezes around the tops of the walls. I felt like I should be dressing for dinner.
The weather was almost entirely hideous, with pouring rain on several days. I went out on some of the walking trails and got my shoes muddy and soaked, but fortunately I was able to spruce them up and dry them on the windowsill during our brief sunny moments.
One evening we went up on the roof of the mansion with one of the music program employees. We had a sweeping view across the Kent countryside, and also a good straight-on look at the house's elaborate conjoined chimneys.
The local cows were very curious. As I walked past one day, they ambled over to get a better look at me. One let out a low moo right in my face, which I am ashamed to say scared me a little bit. Cows seem very big and loud when you're standing right in front of them. When I put out my hand, though, the cow was skittish and backed away -- so there seemed to be mutual mistrust.
I kept thinking about that line on customs forms that asks about wandering around in agricultural areas. I suppose if I travel internationally anytime soon, I'll have to mark yes!
This was our one visible sunset, after our one clear afternoon. You can see how the cows have gnawed the bottoms of the trees in a level line. They're quite efficient tree groomers, actually!
Anyway, I'll fill you in more tomorrow and Friday on my walks and adventures. I'm also going to put a set of Kent photos on Flickr -- as soon as I get those up I'll give you the link.
It's good to be home!